NAGERCOIL: The Congress would use its clout as a powerful Opposition in the State and at the Centre to pressure the Union government to declare cyclone Ockhi as a National Disaster, said Congress president Rahul Gandhi at Thoothur in Kanniyakumari on Thursday. The newly-appointed Congress chief was here to meet the kin of missing fishermen and express solidarity with them.
Surrounded by over 100 family members of missing fishermen, Rahul Gandhi said that he would ensure that their grievances were addressed. During the meeting, Selene Mary and Mini, who lost their husbands in the cyclone, met Rahul Gandhi and urged him to mount pressure on the government to continue rescue operations and also requested for government jobs on compassionate grounds. While assuring them of all help, he said that he would raise the issue in Parliament and strive to get Ockhi declared as National Disaster.
Speaking to Express, Rabisha, a woman who lost four family members, including her father and brother, said, “I lost my brother in an October 11 accident. I requested Rahul Gandhi to address this issue. He assured that he would pressurise the Kerala government to take concrete action on the issue. We also requested support for my family, as there is no male member in my family at present.”
Addressing the gathering after meeting the fishermen families, he said, “I wanted to come here earlier but there Gujarat election campaign delayed my visit. I apologise for not coming sooner. The cyclone has wrought tragedy on many. The entire fishing community is suffering.”
“I met families of the missing fishermen and spoke to people who lost their brothers or fathers. It’s a tragedy. Though I would have liked to say I was happy to be here, as matters stand, I feel sad. It is in my intention to help you all. The Congress is in Opposition, which has an important role to play,” he said. Throwing his lot with the fishermen, he said, “Farmers have a ministry to take care of their affairs, fishermen do not. It is important that you have someone, an institution or a ministry to look after you. We will raise this issue in Parliament. Farmers also suffered huge losses. We will try to help you all in all ways.”
‘Half-hearted’ search operation flayed
The manner in which the State government has handled the issue of missing fishermen in Kanniyakumari district post-cyclone Ockhi has been condemned by people from different walks of life. Speaking at a solidarity meeting held here on Thursday, the participants including lawyers, mediapersons and film directors, criticised the government’s failure to accord priority to this issue.
It emphasised the need for the government to draw up a clear disaster management programme to tackle emergencies effectively. One of the sentiments echoed by all was that the search operation was half-hearted. “How do you expect to find the fishermen at 60 nautical miles when they generally go out to fish at 300 nautical miles?” said a man from the fishermen community. “There are over 600 fishermen who are missing and all of their families are suffering.
Set up panel to oversee distribution of succour: Stalin
DMK working president M K Stalin on Thursday demanded setting up of a committee, comprising representatives of the government, political parties and civic groups, to oversee effective distribution of succour to people affected by cyclone ‘Ockhi’ in Kanniyakumari district.
“I request the government to constitute a Relief Committee headed by the district Collector, comprising functionaries of all parties, public welfare groups and fishermen associations to distribute aid to the people, who lost their livelihood,” he said in a statement. Stalin added that walkie-talkies must be given to registered and unregistered fishermen without any hassle, thereby establishing a system of communication to disseminate timely weather updates and minimise risks in future.