New Delhi: The Union government granted only 26% of the total assistance for fishermen affected by Cyclone Ockhi that the Kerala state government had asked for and also reiterated that there would no special package.
This, the National Fisherfolk Forum (NFF) said, was indicative how "fisherfolk are easily forgotten" and added that after the Kerala floods, they hope that the longstanding demand of greater participation in disaster management bodies would be heeded.
In response to a question in Parliament last month on providing special package for fisherfolk affected by the cyclone, Minister of State for Agriculture & Farmer’s Welfare Krishna Raj said a proposal was received with the total cost of Rs 741.60 lakh from the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare (MoAFW) from Government of Kerala during 2017-18 — but only 26.21% of this was granted.
"An amount of Rs 194.40 lakh was sanctioned as per entitlement to meet the central liability/share under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) on ‘Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries’ for implementation of the above said proposal," Raj said.
In March, Kerala Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty had said that the Centre was yet to approve the special financial package of Rs 7,340 crore for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Ockhi-hit coastal villages. This has been categorically denied by Raj in Parliament.
The issue of a special financial package for fisherfolk affected by Cyclone Ockhi had been a key demand for the fisherfolk. The cyclone killed an estimated 52 people in Kerala and 11 in Tamil Nadu, but at least 500 others continue to be missing.
T Peter, General Secretary of the National Fisher Folk Forum, a national confederation of state-level fishermen groups, said, "The special package for the cyclone would have really helped us, considering that many fisherfolk lost their livelihoods during the floods and have not yet recuperated. We hope that there is some conversation on that front. But this is also a political issue, with opposing governments in power in Delhi and Kerala."
He added, "The other key issue is that of disaster management. What we have been proposing for years now is to combine the traditional knowledge of fisherfolk and the modern scientific knowledge that we possess. This is very important in this era of climate change when such extreme weather events are going to become more and more frequent. Fisherfolk should be a part of these disaster management bodies to work more effectively."
Kerala Fisheries Minister J Mercykutty Amma, on Sunday, said, "Fishermen in 669 mechanised country boats rescued a total of 65,000 people marooned in all districts, braving the torrential rains and floods."
The minister had said the government had a clear vision when it decided to prepare fishermen from the sea coast for rescue operations. The fisheries department resolved to field the fishermen for rescue operations on August 15 when the state started experiencing unusually heavy rains and floods.
The death toll in the floods has touched 302 and 4.6 lakh people are still in relief camps.