CHELLANAM: Everything they earned after years of hard work were washed away in a single day. Last Friday , the surging waves had little mercy on their small houses built close to the sea at Chellanam. The valuables - including money, furniture and utensils - were either lost or damaged in the attack of cyclone Ockhi, leaving only the four walls and the roof intact. But 67-year-old K J Kakko and his wife Lilly are not at all worried about what they lost to the high waves. All they want is a seawall and a breakwater to protect the entire village.
"We need a proper seawall and breakwater in our area. I am not concerned about what we have earned throughout these years as living here is more than anything else in the world. The authorities are trying to settle the situation by giving temporary relief such as ration and pocket money. It is an injustice," said Kakko, a diabetic patient who had been shifted from his home to the relief camp by a police officer, on his shoulder, with the video going viral.
Over a thousand people shifted to a relief camp staged a protest demanding the construction of seawall and breakwater. They said they would return to their homes - currently filled with mud and sand under the cyclone impact - only after getting a final word from the authorities concerned.
"I don't have a dress to change after a bath and there is no money in my hand to buy something to eat," said 52-year -old Thresyamma Johny.
"If the government is attempting to pacify us by offering such petty things, we will never accept it. We want a life. We want the freedom to live here. Nothing more will satisfy us. For this, a seawall and breakwater need to be constructed at the earliest."
Maruvakkad Velankanni Church, the Bazar Road and the rest of the areas are fully covered with mud and sand. Even the toilets were completely covered with sand deposited by the waves. Chellanam village lost two people to the cyclone. "The government has been spending over Rs 5,000 crore to construct the Kochi Metro and other projects as a part of improving the transport facility in Kochi. We don't want any such modern transport facility. What we want is the immediate construction of the seawall which will never cost such a whopping amount," said Thomas Kalipparambil, a fisherman whose house was partially buried under the sand.
According to the villagers, the sea started entering the houses in the Chellanam area only after the tsunami attack in 2004. Though a seawall was constructed in the area, the authorities failed to repair it after being wiped out by the sea in some parts. "About four years back, only five metres of the seawall was damaged in the high waves," said Xavier Aruvilassery, a Chellanam resident.
"Since 2014, we have been requesting the District Collector and the people's representatives to repair the dilapidated area but they didn't heed our pleas. Had they initiated the repair work on time, we won't have had to face such a situation. We have lost everything that we earned so far."
The Chellanam Janakeeya Samithi started a protest on Monday against the apathy of the government in considering their demand. "Most of them living in the area are fishermen. Once we go for fishing, we will be back only after six or seven days. We cannot do our duty properly if our family members are not safe in our homes. If the government is not ready to accept our demand, we will begin an indefinite hunger strike," said Thomas.
Meanwhile, a conciliatory meeting convened under MP K V Thomas and District Collector Mohammed Y Safirulla on Monday evening to find a solution to their problems failed to find a solution. "They agreed to clean up the areas which are now covered with mud and sand. But they were clueless when asked about the construction of seawall. We are going to start an indefinite strike," said a member of Janakeeya Samithi.