The parish priests, after failing to help the cyclone-struck people, resorted to disruptive dharnas and agitations to paralyse the common life
T S Venkatesan from Chennai
Following harsh comments for their callous attitude, as a
measure of damage control, the parish priests instigated the fisherfolk to take to streets against the Centre on the missing fishermen issue.
The catholic priests have a control over these small fishing hamlets through street-level Sabhas called “Anbiyangal”. It is a bridge between people and the church. The head of the Sabha should collect parish money, arrange weekly prayer meetings and so on. The Sabhas reduced the dominance of traditional village headmen and community leaders.
After the Okchi cyclone, only the RSS men, in khaki pants and white shirts, moved quickly to the affected places and rescued the stranded people. They provided them provisions, food, clothes and other essentials collected through Seva Bharati. But the Church people were not seen in these hamlets. They were oblivious of the sufferings of families of fishermen. Their attitude came in for severe criticism in social media. Waking up from their deep slumber, a week after Cyclone Ockhi wreaked havoc along the southern coast of Tamil Nadu, they led rail roko agitation at the Kulithurai railway station in which they brainwashed fishermen from eight villages in Kanyakumari. Over 6,000 protesters refused to call off their protest and wanted the government to fulfil their demands. The first demand is that warships and helicopters were deployed to rescue the missing fishermen. The second is for immediate compensation for the loss of lives and boats to fisher-folk. They are demanding that a
government job is provided to families who have lost their only earning member. The third is for Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami to personally oversee rescue efforts and meet grieving families. According to them, 1,113 fishermen are still missing from their villages while 74 have died.
But the state BJP office-bearers firmly assert that Defence Minister Nirmala Seetharaman was the first person to land in the cyclone-hit parts and oversaw relief works and rescue operations by engaging naval ships, aircraft, helicopters, and coast guard and others.
Meanwhile, The Indian Coast Guard, in a statement, said it had rescued 662 fishermen who had been missing. Of them, 259 hailed from Tamil Nadu. It said CG ships were continuing searches in Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands, Kerala and Karnataka coasts. The CG Dornier planes from Goa, New Mangalore and Kochi were also taking part in the search operations. The Coast Guard deployed 15 crafts, four Dornier aircraft and one helicopter. The CG covered 1,365km coastline from Kanyakumari to Mumbai. The CG ships went up to approximately 190 kms into the sea.
According to the Defence ministry spokesman, an Indian Navy ship engaged in search and rescue operations in the aftermath of Cyclone Ockhi located about 17 boats with over 180 people off Lakshadweep coast on December 8. However, it was not clear whether the 180 people included about 100 fishermen missing after the cyclone.
Meanwhile, the state government announced a committee led by the Commissioner of Revenue Administration would be constituted to conduct a detailed probe.
Though the fishermen were initially reluctant, a few parish priests of the western Kanyakumari district’s coastal hamlets, who were also agitating along with the fishermen, persuaded the people to withdraw the 13-hour-long agitation.
Help to Fishermen
Steps were being taken to bring back to the state 2,478 fishermen, who were now staying in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Lakshadweep, Kerala and Gujarat, he said.
“The estimate is not yet over and the full estimate of loss would be known soon,” he said. A total of 4,495 houses had been damaged and Rs 93 lakh had been given as relief.
Steps were being taken to provide diesel to fishermen who had strayed into Kasargode in Kerala and also Mangalore and Lakshadweep, while power supply had been restored in 642 of the 1150 villages, he said.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman camped their overseeing rescue operations with Navala, Airforce, Coastguard personnel. Union Minister Pon. Radhakrishnan too visited each and every affected hamlet to personally monitoring the relief measures. That being so, what was the need for the fishermen agitation? What were the motive and purpose? Did fishermen agitate because the Christian fathers were in the forefront? Why they carry banners with words, ”tearful homage to CM Edapadi Palanisamy and PM Modi”.
Between 2004 and 2014 nearly 639 fishermen were killed by Sri Lankan naval forces. If the priests really had concern for the fishermen, they would have protested against the Italian-born India-settled Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh then.
Now their agenda is different. It is against nationalism and to cripple the state and Central government. If they really bothered about the welfare and well being of the fisherfolk, they would have given a list of people missing and boats, number fishermen went to sea. They want to keep fisherfolk as slaves forever to achieve their goal is the
sole aim behind their rail roko agitation. They did not come for rescue work when the cyclone was at its peak. n