Following the heroic rescue operation by a group of Kerala fishermen, who saved around 7,000 people stranded in the floods, the state government has decided train 750 members from the community, to put their skills to better use, especially in times of crisis.
Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma told TNM that the 750 fishermen will be divided into three groups, with 150 in each group. Fifteen or thirteen fishermen will be selected from each fishing village.
The members will receive training at Mumbai Maritime Training Institute.
“The government will provide them training and make them well equipped to handle similar crisis situations that may occur in the future,” said the Fisheries Minister. Incidentally, the government had decided to execute a similar plan after cyclone Ockhi hit the coastal regions, she added.
As many as 2,927 fishermen were deployed in 669 boats to the flood-hit regions in various parts of the state. The highest number of fishermen was from Kollam (752), followed by Alappuzha (706).
From Thiruvananthapuram, 360 fishermen engaged in rescue operations, 392 from Malappuram and 343 from Ernakulam. Fishermen from Kottayam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Kozhikode and Kannur, too, were part of the life-saving mission.
According to an official statement from the department, the fishermen rescued as many as 7,000 people. In some places, only the fishermen were able to reach isolated areas and help people, as other rescue operations were hampered by bad weather and increasing turbidity of water.
How it all started
On August 15 evening, when the floods situation turned grim, 33 boats were sent to Pathanamthitta.
“When I saw local residents rescuing others on kutta vanchi (country boat), it suddenly struck me, why can’t we send the fishermen then?” said Mercykutty Amma, adding, “The fishermen engage in adventurous tasks almost every day. So, I was confident that they would be able to contribute to this rescue mission.”
On August 16, when several parts of the state were flooded, she received a call from Chengannur MLA Saji Cherian, whose plea for immediate assistance in the badly-affected town, was being widely circulated.
“The MLA, who was in a panic, asked me to do something immediately. The very next moment, I spoke to the Chief Minister. Following a collective decision, we sought assistance from the fishermen,” she recounts.
On August 16, the fishermen embarked on the rescue mission, first to Pathanamthitta and then Chengannur. In the following days, the number of boats and fishermen increased.
“When I communicated the MLA’s message to the fishermen community, they did not have any second thoughts. Some fishermen, who were all set to go fishing, abandoned that and left for the flood-hit areas. The district administration immediately arranged for lorries to carry the boats and send fishermen to these areas,” she said.
The fishermen offering the service without expecting any pecuniary benefits. In fact, they even declined the CM’s offer of Rs 3,000, as for them, it was about rescuing fellow humans.
“This was a wonderful example of humanity. The government will repair the boats damaged during the rescue operations and will bear whatever losses have been incurred. We have kept the faith in them, and I am extremely content now,” the minister says.
MLA from Kundara constituency in Kollam, Mercykutty Amma used to work among the fishermen community in the district.