The Kerala state government made a detailed presentation on Tuesday, seeking a Rs 7,340 crore relief package to mitigate the fisherfolk's sufferings, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured locals from coastal villages near Thiruvananthapuram who lost their kin when Cyclone Ockhi struck, that the entire country is with them in the hour of grief.
Chief Secretary KM Abraham made the power point presentation that highlighted the various needs of the fishermen, including the Rs 7,340 crore package which includes compensation for the 71 dead, assistance to permanently disabled, to those who suffered injuries besides construction of homes to those rendered homeless, educational assistance, writing off loans and other programmes meant for the overall uplift of the fisherfolks in the state.
Later Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's office informed the media that Modi assured that the Central government will look into the state's demand in a very positive manner and will also extend all help to ensure that a proper weather information system is in place.
After the meeting with the Kerala government, Modi held a brief meeting with the state BJP leaders, who also sought a speedy clearance of the package.
Meanwhile, with the recovery of one more body from the coast of Kannur on Tuesday, the death toll touched 71 fishermen, mostly from the Kerala's southern districts of Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam, while more than 250 remain missing.
Modi flew in here from Lakshwadeep where the cyclone had damaged property, and was received here by Vijayan. The PM then went by a helicopter to Kanyakumari in neighbouring Tamil Nadu before returning to Thiruvananthapuram in the evening.
In Kerala, he travelled to the Poonthura Poonthura Community hall to interact directly with the families of the fisher folk whose near and dear ones either died or continue to remain missing.
He gave them a patient hearing as Union Tourism and IT Minister KJ Alphons translated what they were saying. It was after that the Prime Minister went on to the stage and spoke briefly.
"This is not the time for a lecture and I assure you that we will do everything to help you and that's why I myself have come. We are all with you and will do everything. With Christmas around the corner, we wish all the missing return back," he said in his brief remarks on the occasion.
"The cyclone hit Lakshadweep, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and many of the fishermen are yet to return. We have taken quick action by first sending Defence Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman). The whole country is with you in your grief," he said to claps from the grief-stricken families.
Later, Modi met Kerala Governor P Sathasivam, Chief Minister Vijayan, cabinet colleagues and top officials at the Government Guest House, where the state government sought assistance.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala expressed the displeasure of the opposition, that despite repeated requests, their delegation was not given permission to meet the Prime Minister and submit their demands.
"It's strange that even while we are the opposition, here, we were ignored and the BJP was given preference.. this does not augur well," he told the media. Modi later returned to the national capital.