The Union government has categorically stated that it is not considering Kerala’s request for a special package for Cyclone Ockhi affected fisherfolk, over and above the relief that was granted, as per the existing norms of disaster management.
In response to a question in Parliament on providing a special package, the government said, “The proposal at a total cost of Rs 741.60 lakh for providing assistance to Ockhi Cyclone affected traditional fishermen in the State of Kerala was received in Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries (DADF), Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (MoAFW) from Government of Kerala during 2017-18, and an amount of Rs 194.40 lakh was sanctioned as per entitlement to meet the Central liability/share under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) on ‘Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries’ for implementation of the above said proposal.”
The Union Ministry was responding to a question raised by NK Premachandran, a parliamentarian from Kerala, on Tuesday in the Parliament.
Premachandran had asked whether the Union Government proposes to implement special package for the welfare of fisherfolk for compensating their loss due to cyclone Ockhi disaster and if so, the details thereof.
Answering to the question, the Minister of State for Agriculture & Farmer’s Welfare Krishna Raj said it is not.
In March, replying to a calling attention in the Kerala Assembly, on the necessity to solve the crisis faced in rehabilitation of the victims of cyclone Ockhi due to non-allocation of sufficient funds by the Centre, Kerala Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty had said that the Centre is yet to approve a special financial package of Rs 7,340 crore. This amount was sought by Kerala for rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Ockhi-hit coastal villages.
She had said that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan would take up the matter with the Centre and exert pressure on it for clearing the relief package.
Cyclone Ockhi crossed the sea near Kanyakumari, the southern tip of mainland India, on November 30.
An estimated 52 people in Kerala and 11 in Tamil Nadu died in the cyclone, while many others went missing.
Though it changed direction near Kanyakumari and headed towards the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea, it caused havoc and destruction in the southernmost districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, particularly Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala.
There were reports that damage throughout Kerala was around Rs 1,843 crore and in Tamil Nadu, damage was estimated at more than Rs 1,000 crores.
Meanwhile, National Fishworkers Forum general secretary T Peter told The News Minute that it’s quite disappointing to hear that the government has said no to the special package.
“Special Package was one of our main demands. It is unfortunate to hear that they have said no to it. We are having a meeting with parliamentarians tomorrow. We will raise this issue there.”
“Financially, fisherfolk are still struggling to cope with the losses. We thought that the special package would help them,” Peter said.
Fr Lenin Raj from Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum confirmed to The News Minute that they had asked for a special package for the fisherfolk.
“We had submitted the proposal officially,” the Fr said.
It was the Latin Archdiocese of Trivandrum which was leading the rescue and rehabilitation programmes following Ockhi disaster.
However, The News Minute was not able to get a comment from the Archdioscese representative, who was coordinating the Ockhi relief programmes when this report was filed.
In its reply, the Union Ministry also detailed that as per the details received from the Nodal Ministry for Disaster Management i.e., Ministry of Home Affairs, the Union Government has released an assistance of Rs 76.50 crore from State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and Rs 133.00 crore from National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) to Kerala to support the affected people.
Similarly, an amount of Rs 413.55 crore (Rs 280.50 crore from SDRF and Rs 133.05 crore from NDRF) were released to Tamil Nadu for carrying out immediate relief measures.
When Premachandran asked whether the Union government proposes to provide special assistance to the fisherfolk in the cyclone Ockhi affected areas during the trawling season, the reply detailed that no such proposal is under consideration.
And when the parliamentarian asked about the details of action taken by the Union Government for compensating the fisherfolk and boat owners for their loss of net and other fishing instrument due to cyclone Ockhi, the Union Ministry replied that an amount of Rs 194.40 lakh was sanctioned by DADF, MoAFW to Kerala for replacement of FRP Boats and providing Sea Safety equipment to the Ockhi Cyclone affected traditional fishermen.