The devastating floods caused by incessant, blinding rains in Kerala which have taken 231 lives since August 9 and rendered over 10 lakh without a home is entering its next phase. There’s been some respite from the rain, though water is yet to recede from the worst affected areas—Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Alappuzha, parts of Thrissur. Relief camps are swarming with people. Material and financial aid has been pouring in from all parts of India (from Kashmir, Punjab, the Northeast to Kanyakumari, quite literally), not to mention the Kerala diaspora. The UAE too has pledged `700 crore. It’s as if the heart-wrenching images of a submerged Kerala helped restore human links.
The defence forces have been exemplary, as usual. And nothing really matches the stellar role played by the Kerala fisherfolk—they know a thing or two about tragedy, and refused the state government’s offer of `3,000 per boat, per day. The media too has largely redeemed itself—the local mainstream media and the otherwise much vilified social media.
Stories that restore faith in humanity and compassion abound. But will that be enough for the lakhs who have lost the roof over their heads, those who will struggle to pick up the threads of life and livelihood, those who have their business in ruins, those who have their dream homes covered with silt, slime and snakes? It appears Kerala has perforce been dragged several steps backwards—its enviable social indices battered by the rain. The Pinarayi Vijayan government, which has been on its toes for the past week, has a Herculean task ahead. The total damage is estimated to be more than `19,000 crore.
The Centre has released `600 crore till now. Besides funds, Kerala needs to find the workforce to rehabilitate its people on a mammoth scale. One hopes, when it rebuilds, it would not make the same compromises on the environment that rendered its people so defenceless. The state generally has a high capacity for coordinated collective action, but this time the lessons to be learnt are hard, profound and paradigmatic.