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Rahul lauds Kerala fishermen
By Ashraf Padanna August 29, 2018
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TRIVANDRUM: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday promised a separate ministry for fishers the moment his party comes to power after the general elections eight months away.

“God’s own army will have its own ministry,” he said as he felicitated Kerala fishermen who risked their lives and saved thousands of people caught in the recent floods.

“I salute your bravery. Thirty thousand fishermen, despite having a significant amount of risks in your life, saved 70,000 people. This is a not a small thing.”

Those whom he felicitated at a function here included KP Jaisal of Tanur in Malappuram district who went down in the knee-deep water to provide his back as a step for women and children to get into an unsteady lifeboat which went viral.

He wanted the coastguard to use these fishermen, yet to recover from the Cyclone Ockhi that took away nearly 100 men from them and devastated their lives, in future in such rescue operations.

When the cyclonic storm swept them away on November 30, the Coast Guard had not taken them onboard its rescue vessels initially, and they believed that increased the magnitude of the tragedy.

So when the century’s worst floods devastated the state, fishers, mostly from Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam, without waiting for any appeal, took nearly 700 fishing boats to the worst-flooded areas where the navy rescuers could not reach.

“I remember I came here last time to see my fishermen brothers when you were hurt by the cyclone. I came visiting your homes,” he recalled.

“Looking back, I’m not happy with the help you received. Like farmers, you also face an uncertain life. But when Kerala needed, you stood up and showed Kerala what you’re made of.”

He hugged each of them he felicitated. He began his speech apologising for being late as his helicopter had to make way for an air ambulance reportedly airlifting an ailing infant in Chengannur.

He went to the family and wished them before returning to his helicopter and waited for his flight’s clearance.

The Gandhi scion, who also visited relief camps in Ernakulam district on Tuesday, will leave for Kozhikode and from there to Wayanad on Wednesday after staying in Kochi overnight.

“The #KeralaFloods reveal two distinct ideas of India,” he later tweeted.

“The first is one of love and compassion for all living beings, particularly in their suffering. The second is driven by hate & bigotry that is unrelenting even in the face of suffering.”

He also launched the party’s project to build 1001 houses for those left homeless in floods accepting cheques for Rs 5 million.

The floods had displaced more than a million people since August 8 and some 197,518 people or 51,703 families, are still living in relief camps, mostly schools that are partially opening on Wednesday.

It claimed 322 lives, taking the total deaths since the onset of monsoon on May 29 in rain-related incidents to 474, and left 25 missing and 70 injured.

There were a series of 412 landslides, close to half of them ponding the picturesque Idukki district where many villages remain cut off like its hilly cousin of Wayanad that attract hundreds of tourists.

The floods have swept away 56,439 hectares of crops and the livelihood of tens of thousands of people, including traders.

Meanwhile, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan facing criticism for the delay in distributing interim relief said all the flood-displaced families who have returned home would get Rs 10,000 each “as soon as banks are open.”

He said the shops in the flood-hit areas remain closed and many are struggling to overcome damages. The magnitude of destruction was much bigger than initially estimated.

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