Man is at the mercy of the elements but can do little about it if he pays heed to the fact that to be forewarned is to be forearmed. As Cyclone Ockhi ripped through the southern tip of India before blowing through the Lakshwadeep Islands, those on the ground were playing the usual blame game on warnings. While the IMD, the weather watchdog, tasked with the onerous responsibility of studying global weather, avers it sent out the warning in time, the Kerala government claims the message came through late. Curiously, the issue wasn’t about the warning as much as the severity of the natural event and whether it was a storm or just a serious weather front. Cyclone Ockhi whipped up phenomenal sea conditions that shell-shocked even the normally doughty fishermen.
The loss of lives in Tamil Nadu and Kerala is significant. The fate of many is still uncertain even as the Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force have been carrying out breathtaking air rescue missions over the choppy seas and deploying divers to save hapless fishermen. The pattern seen is a classic one of an India inured to reacting to events rather than acting in time. Paying scant attention to safety is a national trait. But there can be no excuses in this age of instant communications if officials cannot convey warnings in real time of extreme weather events right down the line to all concerned, most importantly to the fishermen. The use of mobile phone registry and community radio should be systematic so that everyone is warned in time. By declaring it a national calamity, the Centre would help assuage some of the considerable damage.