Lok Sabha

December 22, 2017

Saugata Roy speaks during a discussion on natural calamities in various parts of the country

Saugata Roy speaks during a discussion on natural calamities in various parts of the country


I rise to speak on the natural calamity, the cyclone Ockhi, which took place in south India and affected the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the union territory of Lakshadweep very badly.

According to an estimate, 120 people have died in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It is reported that in Kerala 77 people have died, 100 are missing; about a thousand houses have been destroyed.

On behalf of the people of Bengal I express my sympathies to the people of these States, and condolences to the families who have lost their people. It is a terrible thing to be caught in an open sea cyclone; it shows how helpless man is against nature. When cyclone strikes, the sea becomes unruly. Human beings are helpless. And that is what happened in Kerala, Lakshadweep and Tamil Nadu, especially in the district of Kanyakumari.

Since the cyclone, the Kerala Government has announced compensation of Rs 25 lakh to those who have died. Tamil Nadu Government has allotted Rs 20 lakh to the families of those who have died and helps is being extended.

The Kerala and Tamil Nadu Governments have also submitted their demands to the Government of India and I would urge the Home Minister. Even yesterday we discussed this. The Centre has not yet sent it’s team. Only when a team goes, makes the report, and comes back to the Home Minister, will a meeting be held; and then the money will be released.

At this point, we must extend help to those who have been harmed by Ockhi, whose boats have been destroyed, whose houses have been destroyed, those who have lost their kith and kin.

But while we discuss Ockhi, one or two points need to be mentioned. While nobody can prevent a natural calamity, what we can do is to give advance warning so that people can take precautions. Unfortunately, the cyclone had landfall on November 30, while the Indian Meteorological Department issued the warning at noon on that day. By that time, most of the fishermen had gone out to the sea, so the warning did not reach them.

Now, two points are cited. One, people on the west coast are not used to cyclones, unlike the people on the eastern seaboard, in Odisha, in Andhra or in Tamil Nadu. We had Phailin, we had Hodood, and we had the super cyclone in Odisha in 1999. There, the early warning system is in place. In Kerala, this system failed.

I do not want to go into accusations. But the Kerala Chief Minister, whether he has done it politically or not, has openly alleged that Kerala was not warned about the cyclone by the Centre. He said that the first information that the State Government got was on the noon of the 30th; there was no advance information on Ockhi at all. Our colleague, Shashi Tharoor, has written a letter to the Centre to enquire as to why this lapse occurred in warning the people. Loss of lives could have been prevented and maybe much loss of property could have been avoided too.

May be much damage to property could have been avoided. Sir, you will realise the problem with this cyclone was that this originated in the South West of Srilanka. Normally what happens is that cyclones travel upwards at the rate of 13-14 km per hour. People expected it to go towards Maldives. But, instead it came towards Lakshadweep and Kerala. People were taken totally by surprise. Normally Arabian Sea is cooler than Bay of Bengal, as a result of which less cyclones take place in the Arabian Sea, than in the Bay of Bengal and that has led to a state of mind.

What is immediately necessary, is to look into the early warning systems in place in Kerala and in the southern part of the Tamil Nadu, as also Lakshadweep. The picturesque island is totally in the middle of the sea. People are helpless in Lakshadweep, in Kavaratti and other places.

Sir, nobody knows how many people have been missing. The Indian Navy is still searching. There is also a complaint that there is a delay by the Coast Guard and the Navy in putting their ships into action. In Kerala, and particularly in Tamil Nadu, fisherman have complained that they sought help from a Coast Guard but were refused initially. So, in our enquiry you must find out why there is no sufficient early warning, why the Coast Guard refused to cooperate with the fisherman, and their representatives.

The Centre has given Rs 325 crore till now. The Kerala Government has sought a Rs 7,340 crore package. When the Prime Minister went on December 19, more than two weeks after the incident, the Tamil Nadu Government submitted their demands. And in Tamil Nadu, 98 km of National Highways and 75 km of State Highways have been totally destroyed.

Sir, cyclone warning systems have let down the fishermen of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Sir, as it is, in Tamil Nadu, fishermen are tortured, they are captured by Sri Lankan Navy. In Kerala, fishermen are affected by the attack on trawlers and again due to nature’s fury. The nation must extend its helping hand to these people who brave the forces of nature to go out into the sea to catch fish.

I can well realise the sort of misery the people in Shashi Tharoor’s constituency Thiruvananthapuram are facing because the tip of India was most affected. Strangely enough, Sir, ISRO has its main headquarters in Thungba in Thiruvananthapuram, which is an affected area. The satellites show clear images of cyclones forming. Why Kerala, which has the ISRO headquarters, did not know, is a tragic thing which needs to be looked into.

Sir, there is a problem about compensation. Yesterday, we discussed that there were floods in Bengal in June, July and August, and money for flood relief has not yet been released. There is always delay. At the Central level, they say that we have got Disaster Relief Fund and we will decide about National Disaster Relief Fund later. But when such a cyclone, such a natural calamity takes place, decisions should be taken in a jiffy, more quickly. And that’s why there is an urgent need to review deployment of search and rescue aircraft and vessels by Coast Guard and the Navy in the vicinity of Thiruvananthapuram. These all matters need to be looked into.

Sir, you would be surprised that the wind was so strong that fishermen from Kerala went all the way to Maharashtra ports to take shelter. Can you imagine, they crossed the whole coast of Karnataka and then went to Maharashtra? So it was a really terrible thing. They should be compensated for their loss of boats and now the government should swing into action on this matter.

We must have a figure from the Government of India; according to their reports exactly how many fishermen have been killed up to now and how many fishermen are still missing. People in the coastal areas are searching for their relatives in Thusur lake and all other places.

Thank you Sir, for allowing this discussion. We are not from these areas. Our heartfelt sympathies to the people of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Lakshadweep.

Thank you, Sir.