Fishers demand stringent action against erring disaster management officers

By Express News Service  |   Published: 05th December 2017 05:03 AM  |

Last Updated: 05th December 2017 08:11

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman urged the fisherfolk in coastal regions to put the controversy over the disaster warning to rest and focus on rescue operations during her visit to fishing hamlets on Monday. But many of them continue to feel the state government and especially the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) let them down in not providing timely warning to fishermen going to sea.With dozens of fishermen dead and many still missing, fishermen and their families led a protest march to the KSMDA office at Vellayambalam seeking action against officers who they believe are at fault.“Officers at the KSDMA had information about the entry of cyclone Ockhi, but they failed to act upon it. A case should be filed against them for homicide,” said general secretary of the National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) T Peter while inaugurating the protest by Kerala Swatantra Matsyathozhilali Federation (KSMTF), a trade union of small-scale artisanal fishers.KSMTF secretary Anto Elias said the KSDMA received information on cyclones well in advance. “Its failure to issue timely alerts has resulted in a devastating loss to us. The government is spending crores on the authority. Yet the fishermen are not getting anything useful from it,” he said.The protesters consisted of women, the elderly and volunteers of KSMTF who raised slogans against KSDMA officers and blamed the apathy of the authority for the deaths of their near ones. “We will not allow any officer who has scant regard for the life of workers on the coast,” said Mercy Alexander during the protest.The protestors demanded they be allowed to speak to higher officers and tried to force their way into the compound. Commercial Taxes joint commissioner D Balamurali met the protestors and assured action would be taken against officers if they are found to be guilty. A report on KSDMA will be submitted to the governmenton Monday. The protestors said they were assured their participation would be sought in future disaster mitigation projects. “We are keeping a watch on the government. If it fails to act against the officers responsible we will relaunch the agitation in all districts,” said Elias.KSMTF state president P P John, general secretary Jackson Pollayil, and members R Ajayan, Valerian Isaac, Ouseph Antony and Jeremy Roy spoke at the protest.In the aftermath of the devastation caused by Ockhi, a blame game was started between the Centre and the state regarding the time of the alert. The state government said it received the cyclone warning at short notice, leaving little time for alerting fishermen. Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam during his visit said Central agencies had given alerts on November 28 and 29 itself on deep depression and also against fishermen venturing into the sea. But the warning on cyclone was issued only on November 30, he said.

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