Kerala faced a grave crisis. The unexpected floods that shook Kerala cannot be forgotten. About 3 million people have been affected by the floods, 470 deaths, damage to 20,000 houses have been reported. The government instead of rendering help to the victims has it seems, diverted its attention to politics which is to say the least, unfortunate. Floods have come and gone and we have done a lot for the victims’ families and now we have many important events on hand, seem to be the attitude. Very unfortunate.
The unprecedented heavy floods and the events that followed can be considered a lapse of the government. It is the reality of what's happening.
The government, the opposition parties namely the Congress and the BJP, have concentrated on a religious issue. The Congress has changed its position like the BJP on the Sabarimala issue. The matter is before the Supreme Court, and what ruling it will give nobody can say for sure. But if the SC sticks to the original judgment it will put the central government of Narendra Modi in a fix. It can issue an ordinance to change the verdict. Fat chance. Considering the election to come and the general position of women in Kerala. Let us not forget women form the majority.
That being the case why should there have been a huge trouble or unrest in Kerala's political situation? The Ezhavas and the Nairs have taken the Sabarimala case as a test case. They haven't waited for the SC judgment instead of throwing it before the people of Kerala. Creating trouble in Kerala, known as a state where people do not bother about what caste or belief the others are in.
Having said that, let us go to a very serious issue, the unexpected Kerala devastation that happened 5 months ago. Kerala should have showed a way forward as it did immediately after the devastation. The masses forgot all their aspirations and debates and discussions and caste, a very important issue in national politics and worked together. That was a great event in Indian history. The culmination of people forgetting their religions and mutual animosity especially saved Keralites. The Herculean effort made by Keralites it seems ushered in what appeared then a great idea, of rebuilding Kerala. No political party opposed it, or dared to.
But the fact is rebuilding Kerala has become a slogan similar to that of Indira Gandhi's "Garibi hatao". Unfortunately nobody gives such a slogan any thought now. Things have changed in Kerala now.
Five months after the devastation Kerala government has not done anything except give immediate relief. The government should have helped the affected people. All that it has done it seems is distributing Rs.10,000 to victims. There too there have been cases of omitting some victims. Ten thousand rupees is peanuts for Keralites considering the money they earn. Viewed thus it's a disgrace to Pinarayi's government and it's ministers.
Today they are concentrating on the elections yet to be announced. Looking for new issues. They have forgotten Sabarimala just as they are alleged to have forgotten the victims of floods.
What caused these floods? So far there is no agreement on the cause. We have different views on the topic. Who caused the floods or what had become simply a TV discussion issue which has been forgotten by the people and the government and the opposition. So far the government has, I would say, no idea of its cause.
It's a serious matter. Another serious matter is collection of Rs.10,000 by persons who are earning up to Rs.70,000 a month. This has almost become a common practice of those men who are well-off. There must have been political interference in this matter, one can easily guess. Yes, there are many cases of distribution of relief becoming distribution of patronage.
Who caused the devastation? Was it God's punishment for our own fore fathers’ ignorance of events? Was it caused by the stocking of water in the dams which minister Mani encouraged without knowing what the outcome would be? No point in blaming Mani, the politician. For he had several knowledgeable persons around him to give advice. The less said the better.
The issue is a serious one which has been ignored.
Can we continue the same habits of encroachment of public land with the help of politicians, bureaucrats and the police? Pinarayi Vijayan has to tackle this issue. Of course it's a political issue because people who encroach government land will have the help of the churches and Kerala Congress and the Congress and the CPM and CPI. In short it's a matter that will have very serious consequences. It will be a repetition of the floods that devastated Kerala 5 months back.
The earlier that the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan who boasts of having walked through BJP'S goondas with his head held high, attempts a solution, the better. It is unlikely. For the simple reason that the CPM is a different party now from what it was.
There is a question of morally awakened Kerala, too. These are questions that will have no answers. People have to change. Change is what is required in the present situation in Kerala. Keralites will be doomed if they don't make changes in their attitude. What happened 5 months ago will be repeated again and we Keralites will behave in the same manner as we did then.
As luck would have it, the flood was short lived and Keralites did not have to make a very serious attempt to overcome it. We tried to overcome it, can't be denied. Should we not focus our attention on the unchecked onslaughts on the environment? The sand mining, felling of trees, encroachment of forest land, flattening of hills and mountains, indiscriminate exploitation of ground water all continue with the connivance of authorities. If such activities are not checked, visits by natural calamities are sure to follow far more frequently. Needless to add, rebuilding Kerala will turn out a farce.
- P C Punnen, Senior Journalist.
(The views expressed in the article above are those of the author.)