“Politics at the time of Cyclone Ockhi” would be the title Gabriel Garcia Marquez would have put on his despatch from Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu had the journalist-turned-novelist been alive and was in the southern coast of the country for an on the spot assessment of the impact of the recent cyclone.
These fishermen and boats were rescued from the coasts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Lakshadweep, and Orissa. How come these fishermen reach Gujarat coasts in spite of the hourly warnings issued by agencies like INCOIS and IMD about the cyclone?
Kanyakumari, which bore the brunt of Cyclone Ockhi, saw a massive demonstration led by Catholic priests on Thursday against the Central government’s “callous and irresponsible” approach towards the coastal district. The priests blamed lack of efforts by the Central Government to rescue the cyclone-hit fishermen and demanded intense search operations by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard.
Governor Banwarilal Purohit, who was camping at neighboring Tirunelveli district rushed to Kanyakumari on Thursday to visit the affected areas but was humiliated by some of the youth in the area.
“The cyclone and the fallout show the total failure of the Central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The entire blame for the difficulties faced by the coastal community lies at the doorsteps of the Prime Minister. This government has learnt nothing from its 42 months of governance,” alleged MG Devasahayam, a former IAS officer who has no love lost for Narendra Modi or the BJP.
When it was pointed out that union defence minister Nirmala Sitaraman had visited Kanyakumari and neighboring Trivandrum districts and led the relief operations from the front much to the satisfaction of the community, he questioned the propriety of the visits. “What do this lady and the old man know about disaster management. The governor’s priority was to visit Kanyakumari Temple and Vivekananda Memorial. Why did he choose the wrong time for these visits?” asked Devasahayam.
But both state and central agencies monitoring the situation have a different story to tell. “Kanyakumari and Trivandrum districts are witnessing one of the best rescue and relief operations undertaken by the disaster management team of the union government. Minister Nirmala Sitaraman toured the area extensively and interacted with the coastal community providing the much needed soothing touch to those affected by the cyclone. The demonstration we saw in Kanyakumari on Thursday was part of the anti-Narendra Modi campaign unleashed by the DMK and the Church,” said a government official monitoring the situation at ground zero.
Tamil Nadu government has posted 13 senior IAS officials to Kanyakumari district alone under TP Ramachandran, the principal secretary. Till Thursday evening, 1969 fishermen out of the total 2641 who had left for deep sea fishing in spite of the warning issued by the Indian Meteorological Department about the impending cyclone have been rescued by the teams of Indian Navy and Coast Guard, according to Ramachandran, who briefed the media late Thursday evening. “249 of the 282 boats that left Kanyamumari have been traced and search is on for locating other boats,” said Ramachandran.
“These fishermen and boats were rescued from the coasts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Lakshadweep, and Orissa. How come these fishermen reach Gujarat coasts in spite of the hourly warnings issued by agencies like INCOIS and IMD about the cyclone? The objective of the priests and their followers seems to be political in nature,” said a central government observer monitoring the post-cyclone scenario.
Ramesan Nair, Kanyakumari-born Malayalam poet who had moved to the safety of Kerala to escape from the Dravidian politicians said the present crisis was a handiwork of disgruntled politicians and Church authorities who have hidden agendas. “DMK working president M K Stalin issued a statement questioning the motive of the Governor visiting the cyclone-affected areas and this was widely publicised by the media. This only emboldened the youth who had the audacity to question the governor,” said Nair. He said protests erupted after the visit of Nirmala Sitharaman to the affected zones. “She had endeared herself to the local community which has upset the Church and others,” he said.
Aravindan Neelakandan, Nagercoil based author and columnist said there was nothing surprising in the furor created by the Church and the other NGOs in Kanyakumari on Thursday. “This is the same crowd which you see during anti-India and anti-development protests in the country. The Catholic Church is hand in glove with the Left-wing Extremists to block any kind of economic and social developments along coastal India. The entire Indian coast has been brought under the control of the Church and it is the Church which holds the key to the coastal security of the nation now,” said Neelakandan.
The social media and some of the TV channels in Malayalam and Tamil had highlighted the role played by Nirmala Sitharaman which upset certain forces in South India. It is almost a foregone conclusion that if the BJP leadership deputes Nirmala to Tamil Nadu as the chief ministerial candidate, she would be the trailblazer the cadre was waiting for all these years to set off a saffron wave in the Dravidian land.
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