Hundreds of fishermen marched to the Raj Bhavan in Thiruvanananthapuram on Monday demanding that Cyclone Ockhi be classified as a national disaster and that the Prime Minister come to inspect the damage caused.
The Thiruvananthapuram Latin Catholic Diocese organized the protest and fishermen from several villages took part. They also urged that an official search be organized for the missing fishermen, accelerated rescue operations and government jobs for the kin of those who died in the cyclone.
The protesters marched from St Anneâ€™s Latin Catholic Forane Church in Palayam, which lies two kilometres away from Raj Bhavan. This disrupted the cityâ€™s vehicular traffic for a few hours.
The demonstrators also urged the Centre to develop more systematic and scientific measures to warn fishermen of similar calamities well in advance.
The president of the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council, M Susa Pakiam, said the council strongly condemned the lapses on the part of the Centre and State in how they dealt with Cyclone Ockhi â€“ they claimed that the government did not take the warning too seriously.
â€śWe condemn this with deep pain. We live in a country that claims to have a system in place to face any kind of crisis. But in the case of fishermen, the attitude of the authorities is still that of negligence," he said.
He also urged the Union government to immediately declare Cyclone Ockhi as a national disaster considering the magnitude of damage it caused.
â€śThere is the coastal police, the coast guard, the coastal area development authority and the fisheries department. But none of them were effective when the cyclone struck. The Union government should form a ministry with independent powers to look after the affairs of people living in coastal areas,â€ť Pakiam added.
He was quick to add that he was not blaming anyone. â€śI donâ€™t think someone has deliberately tried to increase the magnitude of the disaster â€¦ Deliberate or not, these lapses occurred,â€ť he said. He also urged that the rehabilitation package declared to the fishermen be re-examined.
The search operations, in which multiple agencies are involved, to trace the missing fishermen entered its 11th day on Monday.