Cyclone Ockhi, which hit the Kerala coast on November 30, has now weakened and moved north. Like other natural disasters, this one too has left a lingering bad taste. Saving the lives of fishermen is getting drawn out over days, that too in the huge unknown expanse of the deep seas. This, even as relief and rehabilitation go on as the disaster keeps throwing up new contours every day. And the hope of lives saved and fear of lives lost keep playing catch-up with each other.
If the cyclone, which has claimed 33 lives so far, has put the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his LDF government under pressure, it is not so much the way they handled the disaster, but what they said. A section of the media has been harsh on the chief minister for not wearing his empathy on his sleeve for the disaster-affected in the relief camps.
While the state government, in close coordination with the Centre and active involvement of the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard, were providing relief and rehabilitation activities from day one, questions were raised as to why the Kerala chief minister was tardy in visiting the relief camps. Curiously, the delayed state response to the central cyclone warning appears a non-issue.
It took Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to show the Kerala government the art of empathising with the devastated fisherfolk, by responding with the right words to their expressions of anguish. It mattered little that she spoke in Tamil as they seemed to prefer that to those who were miserly with their Malayalam.
It was a classic lesson to those willing to see as to how the good deeds can be buttressed with the right gesture. Now, questions have been raised as to why the fishermen never paid heed to warnings about a depression in the sea which came as early as November 28. The fishermen say over 2,000 such alerts were issued by weathermen last year. But this time the weathermen got it right.