Ockhi Cyclone
The Kerala government also announced Rs 5 lakh compensation for those seriously injured and extension of free rations for a month.
Sreekesh Raveendran Nair

While the debate is still on about whether there was delay from the Kerala government in issuing a cyclone alert in the state, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday announced that Rs 20 lakh will be given to the families of deceased fishermen.

The government had earlier declared Rs 10 lakh compensation for each of the families.

In a press meet to explain the cabinet decisions regarding cyclone Ockhi and how the state had dealt with it, he said that 52 relief camps have been opened in the state, in which 8,856 people were housed.

“As many as 92 people are still missing. Rescue operations had been coordinated with Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra to send back people of other states who have been brought to Kerala and bring Keralites who had been rescued in other states. A medical team will be sent to Lakshadweep.”

“Rs 5 lakh each will be given for those who are seriously injured. The free rations, which had earlier been announced for one week, would now be extended for a month. Equal compensation will be given for loss of boats and fishing equipment. Free education and skill training will be provided for the children of the deceased,” he added.

“GPS systems will be made mandatory in all fishing boats to give prompt alerts and messages. The government will urge the Centre to work on a scientific system to give timely warnings for changes in weather. More staff will be deployed to the Coastal Police wing. As many as 200 people will be recruited from the people of the coastal community to the Coastal Police wing; priority will be given to the children of fishermen. The State Disaster Management will be revamped,” Pinarayi Vijayan said.

Stating that a state level emergency operation will be set up with a headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram, a regional office in Ernakulam and offices at the district level, the CM said that the operation will combine the services of the Airforce and the Navy.

The Government will ask the Centre to declare Ockhi as a national disaster. A committee consisting of the additional chief secretaries for Revenue, Fisheries and Home will be formed to ensure appropriate compensation for fishermen who cannot be traced. “Normally the decision on them is delayed; the committee has been formed to do away with the delay,” he said.

Referring to some media reports which projected the visit of Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as a great solace for the fishing community which turned bitter on the CM’s visit, he said that the media should introspect if it is good for the state as a whole and for themselves.

The Chief Minister denied that there had been a delay in issuing the cyclone alert, saying that the government had acted promptly without losing even a minute.

“The information given by the Indian Meteorological Department in the morning on November 30 was that a depression would become a deep depression. Only by 12 noon was the warning on the cyclone was received. Within five minutes of receiving the information the state government had passed on the alert to all concerned,” Pinarayi Vijayan said.

“The government had acted promptly after that, combining the assistance of the Navy, Airforce and the Coast Guard as per the Centre for Disaster Management guidelines. Fifteen ships, seven helicopters and four aircraft were deployed for operations on the first day itself. The search operations are ongoing. The Fisheries and Devaswom ministers were assigned to coordinate the operations,” he said.