THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Five days into Ockhi cyclone, the fishermen community at Vizhinjam and Poonthura are finding it hard to make the ends meet. Not only the families of the missing and rescued fishermen but also others, who are yet to go out to the sea after the cyclone, are finding it difficult to procure the daily essentials. The distress and worry along with the government’s alleged apathy have the fisherfolk fuming. It is being alleged the government is yet to provide them financial assistance.
Lashing out against the government for its apathy, Jerome, a fisherman at Vizhinjam (whose son-in-law is still missing), said no one has received any assistance till date. “Five days have passed since we started our vigil in front of the St Mary’s Church. Ministers and officials have all come and gone promising maximum help. But, nothing has materialised yet,” he said. Assistance needs to be provided when it is needed not after, he added. “But here assistance is provided only after it no longer means anything,” he said.
Fishermen are yet to venture out into the sea. Jerome said it doesn’t seem right to go fishing when our neighbours and friends are waiting for the return of their dear ones. “No one will go fishing till the church says,” he said.
But the situation is very dire along the coast. According to Sabariyar from Vizhinjam, who returned from the sea on the day cyclone struck the coast, the families here will go hungry if the men don’t venture out into the sea.
“People here are borrowing money to meet their daily needs. So that once we go fishing, our earnings will end up being used to pay back the debt. The cycle will be a vicious one and we will always find ourselves struggling to meet the daily expenses,” he said. Lamenting they have lost everything, Philomina, who is awaiting the return of her nephew said we don’t even have the help of the government. “The leaders came here and made tall claims. But are they are doing anything?” she asked.
Meanwhile, the Vicar General of the Latin Arch Diocese of Thiruvananthapuram Eugene Pereira said, “We hoped the government would provide maximum support and that too at the earliest.” “Once the disaster struck, they could have provided essential things like ration immediately. Not only the families of the missing but also the entire community is facing hardship. No one has gone to the sea after the incident. We have discussed everything with the government,” he said.
But the government was not prompt in taking action, he said. “Necessary things and even free ration could have been distributed at least a day or two after the disaster. The government could have convened a meeting immediately after the incident and taken a decision. Instead, it is still engaged in finalising a relief package,” he said.