Kochi: The first anniversary of Ockhi cyclone, which devastated the coastal regions, particularly southern districts, has brought with it stark memories of the empty promises made to the fishermen by the state and central governments. The authorities have failed to retrieve the 17 fishing boats and find the whereabouts of 172 missing fisherfolk even as the promise to install the latest communication devices in canoes and fishing boats remained unfulfilled.
The same is the case with the offer made to provide lifejackets to all fishermen venturing out to the sea. Though the state government had sought a financial help of `7,430 crore for rehabilitation and reconstruction, the centre has provided less than `200 crore. “The centre has discriminated against the state and insulted the people,” said Mr A. Charles, president of the Kerala Matsyathozhilali Aikyavedi.
The failure to install the new generation location-tracking device, NAVIC, with the technical expertise of Indian Space Research Organisation is the biggest disappointment for the fisherfolk. The government had promised to install such devices within a time-frame of three months. The implementation would have helped identify the location of the fishing boats in far-off areas, pointed out Mr. Charles. The state government has stated that Keltron would manufacture the device. “The fast- tracking of the scheme would have helped us in locating the position of the fishing boats in any crisis, including the collision with merchant ships,” he added. The NAVIC installed in canoes even on an experimental basis has been taken away.
The parliamentary standing committee headed by former union minister P. Chidamabaram of the Home ministry has called for a relook at the policy of fund disbursal for disaster relief in the wake of the Ockhi cyclone. The 14th Finance Commission has also called for change in the present formula of funding comprising 75 percent by the centre and 25 percent by the state into 90 percent by the centre and 10 percent by the state.
The fishermen also wanted the government to establish a fund for providing them financial assistance when they are unable to undertake fishing in the sea due to adverse weather. In the past one year, there were several warnings against venturing into the sea leaving them without an alternative source of income. It is high time that the government established some mechanism to compensate for the lack of work, Mr. Charles said....