NAGERCOIL: ON a day when Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman pegged the number of Tamil Nadu fishermen missing after cyclone Ockhi at 400, the Centre on Wednesday announced the allocation of `133 crore as interim relief.
The Tamil Nadu government had sought Central assistance of `9,300 crore for relief and rehabilitation activities in the districts affected by the cyclone.
In a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha, Sitharaman said the Navy, the Air Force and the Coast Guard saved as many as 821 people until December 20. Twenty-four more people were saved by other agencies, including merchant navy vessels.
Of the total 845 people rescued, 453 were from Tamil Nadu, 362 from Kerala, and 30 from Lakshadweep and Minicoy islands.
Sitharaman said 661 fishermen were still missing. The majority of those untraceable are from Tamil Nadu (400) and Kerala (261).
According to K Satyagopal, Commissioner for Revenue Administration (CRA) and Relief Commissioner, Tamil Nadu, “The Centre has allocated `133 crore under the National Disaster Relief Fund for Tamil Nadu for relief works.”
The allocation was announced ahead of the visit of a Central team of experts to assess damage in Kanniyakumari district.
Fishermen associations in Kanniyakumari district hoped the Central team would understand the ground reality and do a realistic estimate of the losses suffered by the community. The team that will begin its inspection on Thursday, should meet the affected fishermen to understand their background and support they need, the associations said.
Though most of the agricultural lands have recovered from the aftermath of the cyclone on their own, MLA Mano Thangaraj said, the damage to the farming sector should also be looked into.
Speaking to Express, Justin Antony of INFIDET said, on a daily basis, families of the missing fishermen used to go to Thiruvananthapuram to give their blood samples for DNA tests.
“When the Central team talks to the fishermen, they should look into the need for a helipad and helicopter, and steps should be taken to declare Ockhi a national disaster. For the time being, the Centre as well as State should join hands and arrange helicopter support from Thiruvananthapuram in case of any emergency,” he said.
Pointing to the widespread crop damage, CITU’s Valsakumar said official records show fewer uprooted rubber trees due to the cyclone as compared to the reality.
“The loss incurred in rubber trees means loss of income for eight years, as the farmers have to plant them again. During the cyclone, many officials failed to address the issues of tribal villages that have been affected by the cyclone. It should be considered by the government. Every tree that is found broken in Kulasekaram and in Padmanabhapuram should be considered,” he added.
Mano Thangaraj said, the administration had come out with the figures without even carrying out inspection. “The affected plantations, banana, coconut and other crops were not considered,” Thangaraj added.