NAGERCOIL: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday met delegations of fishermen leaders, farmers, parish priests and relatives of missing seafarers and promised to render all assistance to those affected by cyclone Ockhi. He was accompanied by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, who sought Rs 9,302 crore package for relief and rehabilitation.
Almost all petitioners urged him to declare Ockhi a national disaster. They also sought Central help to equip fishermen with state-of-the-art satellite phones, a helipad in the region with a helicopter at the ready 24x7 and to station a rescue ship on the Kanniyakumari coast.
Palaniswami later told the media, “For the first phase, we sought Rs 5,255 crore assistance towards implementing permanent rehabilitation measures in Kumari. We have a Rs 4,047 crore component for other parts of the State, including Chennai.”
All petitioners urged Modi to intensify the rescue operations and ensure that all missing fishermen were accounted for. The family members maintained that the rescue efforts were a small price to pay for saving even one life in need at the sea. The families also urged the Central government to ensure that the solatium and the compensation provided to the affected families should match that offered by the neighbouring Kerala.
The Chief Minister also sought an increase in ex-gratia for kin of the deceased to Rs 10 lakh as opposed to Rs 4 lakh that is currently offered and Rs 5 lakh for those disabled against Rs 2 lakh. A compensation of Rs 1.25 lakh per hectare of damaged banana crop and Rs 2.5 lakh per hectare of damaged rubber crop was also sought, against the Rs 13,500 that is now being offered per hectare for banana and Rs 18,000 for a hectare of rubber.
Justin Antony, president of INFIDET, submitted a memorandum to the prime minister, requesting him to set up a branch office of the National Disaster Management Centre at a suitable place on the west coast and a branch office of the Marine Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Thoothoor. He also urged the Centre to waive off all bank loans of the families of fishermen who are still missing.
The prime minister’s helicopter landed at 2.15 pm and took off by 3.55 pm. The meeting was organised at a closed venue.
Parish priests from coastal villages in Thoothoor, including Fr P Darwin from Vallavilai, Fr T Lucian from Neerodi, Fr A Belbinison from Thootoor, Fr Anto Joris from Poothurai, Fr Antro Cosmos, Vicar Forane and Thoothoor Region Vicar Legal Adviser Belbin Jose, were among those who met the PM.
‘Ably tackle calamities’
The memorandum demanded that there must be enough preventive measures from the govt side to ensure that such calamities were ably tackled in future. Fr Forane said that rehabilitation process and quantum of solatium should match that of the Kerala govt.
HC notice on plea to trace 551 fishermen
Madurai: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has sought a reply from the Union and State governments on a Habeas Corpus Plea praying for a directive to the authorities to trace 551 fishermen who went missing cyclone ‘Ockhi’. In his petition, Anto Lenin said Justin Babu Mellkiyas, his cousin, went for fishing to deep sea on November 23 along with other fishermen. Thirteen returned on November 30 after a long struggle. The whereabouts of his cousin were not known. He also submitted that fishermen community leaders had taken great efforts to trace the missing fishermen, but could not find them, and feared they had died in the cyclone.