Cyclone Amphan: Heartbreaking Image of a Man Hiding in a Garbage Bin is Evidence That India Has Failed Its Poor

Social Commentary

Cyclone Amphan: Heartbreaking Image of a Man Hiding in a Garbage Bin is Evidence That India Has Failed Its Poor

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Over the last two months, parts of the country have been going through a massive humanitarian and economic crisis over the pandemic. Migrants and the destitute have been left to their own fates. There’s no greater reminder of this fact than a heartbreaking video which emerged on Thursday from Asansol in Bengal.

In it, a homeless man is seen seeking shelter from the super cyclone Amphan in a garbage bin. The man, who according to reports, is mentally disabled, was spotted by locals the morning after the storm wreaked havoc on the state.

As the rest of the state scrambled for shelter, the man is seen scavenging for leftovers in the trash along with a dog. The Quint reported that he was later coaxed out of the bin by authorities, who gave him some food to eat. The man, however, continued to sit beside the garbage bin seeing as he had nowhere else to go.

The story has once again put West Bengal — a state that has been reeling from both the Covid-19 pandemic and the super cyclone Amphan simultaneously for the last few days — in the spotlight.

A day after the storm weakened, on Friday, reports announced that as many as 72 people had died in the state, mostly from collapsing structures, and incidents of electrocution.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi later tweeted that no stone will be left unturned in helping those affected. His office announced that he would personally visit Bengal and Orissa to assess the damage caused by the storm.

Cyclone Amphan, which was estimated to be the fiercest in the state in 283 years, lashed North and South 24 Parganas and state capital Kolkata for more than four hours during Wednesday’s landfall, uprooting trees, and knocking down electricity poles.

A Rs 1,000-crore fund for relief and rehabilitation has now been set up by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who also announced a compensation package of Rs 2.5 lakh to the families of those who lost their lives. She later said that she was “shaken” and that the disaster “could not have come at a worse time for Bengal”.

Even as focus now shifts to how well the disaster response units deal with the crisis, the image of a man sitting in the garbage bin will no doubt stick in our heads for a while. The pandemic is, after all, just another issue plaguing our country.