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Kerala political parties unite in call for ‘national calamity’ tag

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on August 20, 2018 Published on August 20, 2018

Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala 20/08/2018:: Army Hospital Corps and volunteers arranging relief meterials at a collection centre in Nishagandhi auditorium in the city on Monday..........Photo:S_Gopakumar.   -  THE HINDU

(From left) Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan (left) and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala visit a relief camp in Chengamanadu, Ernakulam district (file photo); a soldier airdrops relief material in Chengannur on Monday; Army Hospital Corps arrange relief materials at a collection centre in Thiruvananthapuram   -  S GOPAKUMAR

Demand gets louder for more Central aid, wider role for Army in rescue & relief

Numbed by the sheer magnitude of the floods, the political class in Kerala took some time to collect itself and come out with some response in order to stay relevant.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seemed to win the first round, after he deftly managed to pull in Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala along with him for a helicopter hop to assess the flood damage.

Even as observers commended Chennithala for his sagacity and political maturity, he suddenly came up with a statement saying all was not right with the rescue and relief (R&R) operations. Given the scale of the disaster, it would be ideal if the Army was entrusted with the R&R operations, he said.

He reiterated the demand after the second and more grievous phase of the disaster began to unfold after August 12, apparently feeling vindicated after TV anchors and social media voiced similar thoughts.

Later, Congress leader and Lok Sabha member from Alappuzha KC Venugopal said the situation had deteriorated to such an extent that the Centre had to extend the maximum possible support.

“Our people — the police and district administration — are working very well but there is a limit to what they can do,” he said.

“The entire operation should be taken over by the Army. This should be declared a national disaster. We need more money from the Centre and we need more coordination.”

Rajya Sabha member Jose K Mani strongly criticised the Centre for what he described was failure to react with the seriousness the situation deserved. “In Kuttanad area, thousands are stranded on top of buildings,” he said. “Only choppers could rescue them. But the State has not been given enough helicopters.”

Call for Navy

Mani said while medical relief is crucial, people have to be rescued first. “We need a big section of the Navy pressed into service in Kerala if we are to avoid further deaths,” he said.

“The helicopter rescue videos you are seeing on social media are operations that are far and few. The scale of destruction and human calamity cannot be described in words.”

Meanwhile, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, on a visit to the State, said the ₹500-crore fund allocated by the Centre to Kerala is grossly insufficient. This was granted against a demand of ₹2,000 crore made by the State on the basis of a preliminary assessment. It was unfortunate that the Centre had refused to declare the floods a national disaster, he added.

Expressing hope the Centre will rectify its stand, Yechury said: “The Centre and the armed forces have to provide help to the State to rebuild itself.”

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Published on August 20, 2018
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