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CM with Pranab for Aila purse

Calcutta, May 29: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee drove to Calcutta airport today apparently to urge Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee to send a team to assess the damage caused by cyclone Aila and tell him the state would require at least Rs 1,000 crore to tide over the crisis.

They were closeted in a 40-minute meeting after which the Union minister left for Delhi this evening.

“The chief minister basically explained to him the impact of Aila and its aftermath, which has left 117 people dead and rendered lakhs homeless. He requested Pranabbabu to depute a central team that can visit the cyclone-hit areas with state officials and submit a report on the basis of which the Centre can decide how much assistance it should provide,” said an official in the chief minister’s secretariat.

“If the Centre declares it a national calamity, we will get money from the National Calamity and Contingency Fund. But for that, a central team’s visit is necessary,” he added.

Yesterday, Bhattacharjee had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, requesting him to give Rs 1,000 crore to the state government on the ground that the damage amounted to Rs 1,500 crore.

“Over five lakh houses have been razed. So we expect compassion from the Centre and funds to build homes. The rural development ministry can do its bit by granting funds under the Indira Awas Yojana,’’ the chief minister was quoted as telling Mukherjee.

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