Defence minister Nirmala Sitaraman consoles Gaja victims.
Chennai: Most families in the Gaja-hit delta districts got huge relief on Monday with the administration reaching three litres of kerosene to help light up the dark nights even as the state electricity board workers continue hard toil to restore electricity. They must thank Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman for this.
Not just this huge stock of kerosene that was moved quickly from the Indian Oil storage tanks in other states as adequate stocks were not available in Tami Nadu, vast quantities of large-size tarpaulin sheets were reached to the distressed people whose fragile roofs got blown away by Gaja on the night of November 16, from sources outside the state because of the Central Minister’s efforts immediately after her tour of the affected areas last week, informed sources said.
"At the meeting she had with some state ministers and those district collectors, the Defence Minister wanted to know the exact requirements of the various relief materials so that she could contact the concerned ministers at the Centre and arrange immediate help. And when she got a fair idea of the urgent needs, she spoke to her various Cabinet colleagues and got things moving real fast", said a senior official requesting anonymity.
"For instance, she spoke to Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and explained to him about the huge disaster that has rendered the food-givers of our delta districts as paupers, with vast stretches of paddy fields, coconut farms and banana gardens destroyed. As a result, the horticulture joint secretary and the chairman of the Coconut Board are arriving here on Tuesday (December 4) and will be touring the Gaja-hit places for three days", said the officer, who has been part of the relief efforts in the delta districts.
While the horticulture joint secretary will meet the banana growers, the Coconut Board chairman will interact with the coconut farmers. "Defence Minister has told the distressed coconut farmers she would reach them saplings for fresh planting, even transporting them by the military ships from Andamans if necessary. And she will do that", said another officer in the know of things.
"Let me recall something interesting that happened during the meeting that she had with the state ministers and district collectors", said the officer. "Sporting a smile, she told the state ministers while she would do her best to get Central assistance since the Prime Minister is keen on helping the TN people, such funds must entirely reach the victims and not end up as payments of commissions. At this, a state minister quickly came up with a defence, saying, 'but ma'am, all payments (to beneficiaries) are made through ECS (electronic mode of funds transfer from one bank to another); nothing paid in cash'. She just nodded and smiled", the official added.
The Defence Minister also had a word of advice, and warning, for the TN bureaucracy, telling the district collectors present at the meeting that while they might have found their (state) ministers to be 'nice and soft' political bosses to deal with, she was a real toughie and would demand quick and complete results.
Def minister in Washington, sends msg to confirm kerosene for Gaja-hit
Nirmala Sitaraman is presently in Washington for a critically important meet with the Trump administration focusing on several sensitive issues, such as the increased Chinese presence in the Indo-Pacific region and its impact on sea lanes of communication. Even while preparing her notes for the summit that would begin Monday morning, she found time to send out messages to her staff in Delhi and friends in Chennai seeking confirmation that the promised kerosene was indeed delivered to the Gaja-hit families. One of the aides asked her in disbelief: "What time is it there (Washington), ma'am?"
It was about 3.50 pm IST when he sent out that message and pat came the reply on whatsapp -"It's now 5.30 in the morning at Washington. I have been up since 3.30 preparing for the bilateral meeting. Now tell me, has the kerosene been all distributed there? I had promised them."