Cyclone Ockhi can't be declared national calamity: Government

The Union government refused to declare, as a 'national calamity', Cyclone Ockhi in which 74 people lost their lives.

Published: 22nd December 2017 07:05 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd December 2017 07:05 PM   |  A+A-

Ockhi, Kerala, vizhinjam

A file photo of women with hopes of return of their dear ones at the St Mary's church in Vizhinjam. (EPS | Kaviyoor Santhosh)

By IANS

NEW DELHI: The Union government on Friday refused to declare, as a "national calamity", Cyclone Ockhi in which 74 people lost their lives and as many as 214 went missing when it struck Tamil Nadu and Kerala last month.

However, it acknowledged the cyclone as "rare and extraordinary" which turned into lethal cyclonic storm from deep depression within six hours.

"We can't declare it as national calamity as rules don't allow and the government has its own compulsions. However, the government has recognised it as a disaster of severe nature," said Home Minister Rajnath Singh said while responding to a debate in Lok Sabha over recent natural calamities across the country in view of the cyclone.

He also ruled out any enquiry into the alleged delay in issuing alerts, saying all the standard protocols were followed while issuing alerts.

"The Met Dept had issued a warning on November 29 itself and bulletins were issued after every three hours. It was a rare storm which developed from deep depression to lethal cyclonic storm in only six hours," Rajnath Singh said.

He added that alerts were issued and fishermen were warned 24 hours before.

Rajnath Singh said that a cyclonic storm which has a peculiar behavior cannot be predicted earlier.

"Whatever alert was available, the state was informed," he said assuring the house that there was no delay in bringing about rescue efforts.

Rajnath Singh also refuted the opposition's allegations that the government discriminated against Kerala and Tamil Nadu by deploying more National Disaster Relief Force teams in Gujarat.

"No need of any enquiry. This government can't be so inhuman. Teams were deployed as per the demand of state governments," he said.

Earlier, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge accused the government of deploying seven teams of NDRF in Gujarat while deploying four in Kerala and three each in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.

Demanding an enquiry into the matter, Kharge also pulled up party leader Shashi Tharoor for praising central government's efforts as "extremely helpful".

Most of the members who spoke over the issue sought from the government to announce the cyclone as national disaster and demanded more compensation.

"Adequate compensation should be provided and government should take some structural steps so that money sent to state is used properly," Tharoor said.

He also sought an enquiry over the alleged delay in issuing the alerts.

Not satisfied with the answer of the Minister, members of Congress, the Left parties, and the Rashtriya Janata Dal staged a walkout.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar hit out at Congress for staging walkout and accused the opposition of politicising the issue.

"It's unfortunate. They are doing politics on natural calamities. The government did everything what needed to be done," he said.

He also alleged that there was no delay on part of the Central government in issuing alerts and the fault was at end of state governments.

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