NAGERCOIL: Over a fortnight has passed since Ockhi unleashed her fury to bring this coastal district to its knees. Among the thousands affected is a marginalised community, which used to eke out and hand-to-mouth existence by collecting fallen coconut fronds. S Velu Samy, a 67-year-old, a resident of Arasar Konam in Rajakamangam near Nagercoil, cuts a forlorn picture amid the devastation in the wake of Ockhi.
On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, Velu Samy, a Dalit, is busy separating the fronds from the fallen coconut branches. He has studied up to SSLC, but Velu has always been the son of the soil, more at home at farm than anywhere else since his teenage. Velu’s task is arduous and low-paying. He separates fronds, tears off the leaf and takes the rib to people engaged in making brooms.
Narrating how the cyclone-affected his locality, he says, “I have never seen the coconut trees sway and get uprooted in my life. Ockhi was different in magnitude and impact. There are over 100 trees on the farm I collect fronds from. I have a contract to collect the fronds from the compound. The wet fronds are decaying and are already of little use for me.”
So how does it impact a poor farmer like him? First, the little income that came by selling the ribs to broom makers, he used to manage his expenses and take care of his wife. Secondly, the trees would take anywhere between six months and eight months to flourish again. Moreover, not being a landowner, he stands no chance of getting the compensation announced by the State.
Velu is not alone from this segment to suffer misery at the hands of Ockhi. Pichandi, a resident of Erumpukadu, collects ribs from poor collectors like Velu. He was a relatively happy man before the cyclone came. “The fronds used to fetch Rs 19 a kg, now I am lucky if I get Rs 15. The fallen and drenched fronds are regarded as poor quality and are not encouraged,” he added.