Kerala Church, fishermen protest ‘apathy’ in Ockhi victim search

Kerala Church, fishermen protest ‘apathy’ in Ockhi victim search

Expressed ‘dissatisfaction’ over the government’s efforts in tracing the missing fishermen

Thiruvananthapuram The Latin Catholic Church in Kerala has taken up the cause of the fishermen community in the state in the wake of the Ockhi cyclone disaster, demanding that the government intensify its efforts to search for over 200 fishermen who remain missing after the cyclone.

The Centre for Fisheries Studies has been quoted as saying that there were 260 fishermen yet to return from sea, including 157 who went fishing in motorised boats. The others used country boats.

The Latin Catholic Church archbishop, M. Susaipakiam expressed “dissatisfaction” over the government’s efforts in tracing the missing fishermen.

On Saturday, local residents of Pozhiyur and Paruthiyur in south Kerala blocked the national highway at Neyyattinkara in the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram, demanding that the government find 46 fishermen from their area who are still missing at sea, nine days after the cyclone.

Well over a week after the Ockhi winds left the Kerala coast, dozens of families in south Kerala are mourning their dead or awaiting news of missing family members who had gone out to fish when the cyclone struck the coastal region.

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From the beginning of the search and rescue operations, there was discontent among the local residents about the ‘apathy’ in the functioning of different agencies in the operations. The displeasure was so much that more than 50 boats of fishermen ignored official warnings and themselves set off in vessels to search for their kith and kin when they thought the government’s search operations were inefficient.

At the height of the tragedy, when chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan visited the coastal area to meet those affected in the cyclone, their fury forced the chief minister to beat a retreat in another minister’s car.

However, when the federal defence minister Nirmala Seetharaman visited the coast, the fishermen patiently listened to her.

The chief minister had a meeting scheduled with the federal home minister, Rajnath Singh on Saturday, in which he was expected to seek Rs5 billion as an emergency financial package to deal with the losses caused by the Ockhi cyclone.

Though the authorities have announced a Rs2 million package for the families of each of the deceased, the families of those who are still missing have more official procedures to fulfil before they can claim any compensation.