Monsoon in Kerala has been always magic. But in 2018, the monsoon between June 1 and August 18 wrought havoc in the state bringing lives of 5.4 million people to a standstill. The heavy downpour coupled with poor management of dams resulted in Kerala experiencing the worst-ever floods in the history since 1924.
The torrential rains triggered nearly 350 landslides and forced the release of excess water from 37 dams across the state. The devastating floods and landslides affected 5.4 million people, displaced 1.4 million people and claimed 433 lives. The cost to rebuild Kerala was estimated to be over 21,000 crore.
According to the state government, 1,259 out of 1,664 villages spread across 14 districts were affected. The worst-hit seven districts were Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Idukki, Kottayam, Pathanamthitta, Thrissur and Wayanad.
In fact, the floods put the state government in a tight spot after it came under sharp criticism for being totally remaining unprepared to deal with the crisis situation. The Kerala High Court even admitted a letter send by N R Joseph of Chalakudy to one of its judges as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which contended that it was the mismanagement of dams and criminal negligence that led to the floods.
However, on the positive side, Malayalees and people of the country rose to the occasion to extend all possible support to flood-affected people. Fishermen community was the first to reach out to those affected by the floods.
They relentlessly worked in tandem with police and rescue teams to shift lakhs of people to safety. Indians world over contributed tonnes of relief materials to the displaced and the state saw thousands of people voluntarily taking up relief works. Obviously, there was a sense of camaraderie and the entire state stood together to tide over the crisis.
On the flip side, even after four months, many of the affected people are still struggling to return to their normal lives after floods destroyed their homes and other valuables.
Sleaze, rape allegations rock Orthodox, Catholic Churches
Rape and sleaze episodes rocked the Church and things became murkier when a few nuns came out in the open protesting against the lethargic attitude of the state government and the Church in acting against the Bishop who faced rape charges. On September 8, for the first time, nuns staged a protest demanding the arrest of former Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal in connection with an alleged rape of a nun.
The victim’s family members and five of her colleagues from Missionaries of Jesus convent at Kuravilangad in Kottayam took to the streets and joined the indefinite hunger strike organised by Save Our Sisters (SOS) Action Council. Following protests, the Bishop was summoned for questioning and later arrested. Similarly, in August, four Orthodox priests of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church were arrested based on a complaint of rape by a woman believer who gave a submission that she was raped after threatening to reveal her confession secrets to her husband.
The accused priests were Fr Jaise K George, Fr Abraham Varghese, Fr Job Mathew and Fr Johnson V Mathew. Later, the priests were granted bail by the High Court.
SFI leader murdered; campus turns bloody
In an incident that brought to light violence on college campuses in the state, a student of Maharaja’s College in Kochi, also a member of Students Federation of India (SFI), was stabbed to death inside the hostel premises on July 21.
The 20-year-old BSc Chemistry student identified as Abhimanyu was killed when SFI students and Campus Front of India (Student wing of PFI) workers allegedly clashed inside the campus. A native of Marayoor in Idukki, Abhimanyu was allegedly stabbed late night. The incident was a fallout of an argument between two groups over sticking posters inside the campus. Abhimanyu was painting the walls to welcome the new batch of students.