Cyclone Gaja wreaked havoc in Thanjavur, uprooting plantations and power lines. Locals say that the district was not as prepared as its coastal neighbours.

Ground report Anger apathy in cyclone-ravaged ThanjavurAll pictures by Manasa Rao, The News Minute
news Cyclone Gaja Monday, November 19, 2018 - 18:12

Four days after Cyclone Gaja tore into their homes and farms, the residents of Orathanadu taluk are seething with anger. Anger that is directed squarely at an administration that, they believe, underestimated the onslaught the cyclone was likely to bring.

Villages in the taluk are strewn with dry, papery foliage and dead wood that have fallen to the ground in groves. Power lines, electric poles and whole transformers lie mangled on the streets, doubling up as iron vantage points for children trying to amuse themselves. Many smaller homes, with thatched roofs have been blown away while tile-roofed homes too have lost structural integrity, with terracotta pieces scattered inside houses.

“I was about to harvest the coconuts in a week's time. I would have climbed them and brought them down by myself but see what the cyclone has done,” says Muthusamy, a farmer from Vadaseri village, pointing to the uprooted acres of coconut grove. Muthusamy and others in the village say that they had not been warned of the scale of the cyclone and worse, not been attended to following its offensive.

Living in the dark

Orathanadu taluk has still not received power, four days after the cyclone. The Energy Department assessed damages to 39,938 electric poles, 347 transformers and 3,559 km of transmission wires.

While the villagers are well aware that restoration of power lines is no mean feat, they point out that other areas have at least witnessed ad hoc arrangements.

“We have been demanding a generator for four days. Other areas where the Ministers are visiting have got two to three generators. We have also been affected badly. Why is no importance being shown to us? Not one official has come to visit us and talk about our problems. Should we live or die?” asks a furious Mariappan, a farmer who led the road roko against four visiting Ministers of the state government on Monday.

The protesters say that this was the last resort to grab the attention of officials who have thus far ignored their calls.

‘No food and water’

With dense foliage and uprooted trees blocking roadways, villagers are picking up the pieces around their homes.

Aishwarya, a resident of the Thirumangalakkottai village, has an infant in her arms, and is tending to her cattle.

“The youngsters in the village have been clearing the roads in the daytime because we stopped hoping for help. We don't even have candles to stay safe indoors at night. We pooled in our money as a village to go and buy milk powder for our children. The majority of the rescue and relief work is only happening in the town areas, not in the rural parts of Thanjavur. We also need first aid and water for our cattle. They are our source of livelihood,” she says, adding that government apathy in times like this makes her fearful for the days ahead.

“How can we rebuild all of this without any help? We have also contributed to the economy and agriculture. They have not announced any solatium for us,” she points out.

With road rokos at every turn along Orathanadu, the protesting villagers decided to give up their protests after the district collector promised them a generator and kerosene in the interim. The villagers, for their part, intend to continue protests if their demands for other essential supplies are not met.

However, as the evening rolled in, the villages of Orathanadu received a fresh coat of showers with the Met Department predicting more rains, adding to the anxiety.

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