Thiruvananthpuram: The strike announced by the Latin Catholic Church in the wake of cyclone Ockhi is not against the central or state governments, but a manifestation of the suffering fishermen's emotions, according to Latin Catholic Archbishop M. Soosapakiam. The archbishop told reporters here after meeting Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran on Saturday that the Church does not hold the view that the government had done nothing for saving the fishermen. However, there were shortcomings in the rescue operation and rehabilitation package. "The present strike is the result of the fishermen's frustration over not finding their missing their relatives. It is difficult to control the emotions of the fishermen at this juncture," he said.
Mr Surendran told reporters that the Church did not have anything against the government. Some external forces were trying to take political mileage out of the tragedy, he alleged. Mr Surendran also justified the agitation conducted by the fishermen at Neyyatinkara. "As many as 33 persons are missing in one parish and their sorrow is understandable. There were limitations in the search operations conducted by the Coast Guard and Navy. They along with the fishermen of Pozhiyoor region will search all the places mentioned by the fishermen on Sunday morning," aid Mr Surendran. Earlier, former chief minister Oommen Chandy, who met the archbishop, said that the fishermen's agitation was justifiable.
50 fishers arrive on board MV Kavaratti
MV Kavaratti brought here on Saturday 50 cyclone-hit fishers rescued from Lakshadweep shores. They included two Keralites, Shelton (35) of Anchuthengu in Thiruvananthapuram and Sachin (28) of Vizhinjam. "Of them, 45 belonged to Tamil Nadu, one to Karnataka and two to Assam," said fisheries deputy director S. Mahesh. He said Tamil Nadu officials who were present at the Cochin Port took charge of their fishermen.
"The Ernakulam district collector had deployed officials at the port who arranged train tickets for the men from Karnataka and Assam," he added. He said another batch is expected to arrive by MV Kalpeni tomorrow from Kalpeni island. "More fishermen are expected to arrive on their own tomorrow. The number could be around 50. Many who arrived today and tomorrow lost their boats in the cyclone," he said.
Currently, fisheries DD (Thrissur) is stationed at Kavaratti to coordinate the relief operations. "The department is also involved in rescue and relief operations and we in coordination with the officials deployed by the collector also ensure that they are provided with food and medicine," he said.
Unidentified fisherman’s body found
An unidentified body of a fisherman was brought to Kayamkulam harbour by marine enforcement unit on Saturday evening. S.Mahesh,Fisheries deputy director, said that the body would be kept in the mortuary at Kayamkulam taluk hospital. The body can be identified only after DNA test, he said. The body was recovered 40 nautical miles off Arthunkal coast.
Families complain of stale ration rice
The enthusiasm shown by NGOs and others during the initial days of cyclone Ockhi to provide essential items to the numerous affected families has waned. Now the families have to depend on the stale ration rice provided by the government. Only 1,500 people are eligible to get the free ration of five kilogram rice and half a kg of green gram each. Even this is yet to be distributed in Poonthura where 3,600 families are waiting for their quota. However, the civil supplies department under minister P. Thilothaman has said that over 2,000 families in the coastal areas of Thiruvananthapuram have been provided with 15 kg of rice each.
After the government announced the free ration, the NGOs and religious institutions have stopped providing food to the fishermen's families. The fisheries department is also providing rice and essential goods. But the fishermen say that they are getting low-quality rice through fair price shops. "The people are bound to express their frustration when the ministers visit them," said Maglin, president of Theeradesha Mahila Vedhi.
An official of the civil supplies department said that after they received complaints, good quality rice was being provided to the people. "We supply the rice procured from the FCI warehouses. We have so far provided 15 kg rice each to the families of fishermen. Whoever comes to the fair price shops are given free ration," he said. The revenue and fisheries departments too have taken steps to identify the beneficiaries of free ration.