Unity of People at a Challenging Time

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan

THE catastrophe which Kerala had to face in the form of extremely heavy rainfall is the biggest one in the history of the state in the last hundred years. The monsoon started off with calamities and it has continued till the end of August. And the various districts in the state have been flooded. 439 human beings lost their lives and 44 had been missing. 14,50,707 persons belonging to 3,91,494 families were sheltered in relief camps. It is for the first time in the history of Kerala that such a huge number of persons were compelled to stay in relief camps. The rain was extremely high on August 14, 2018 and the Indian Meteorological Department could not forecast it. The forecasted rain between  August 9-15, 2018 by the  IMD was 98.5 mm but the actual rain fall reached 352.2 mm which was more than three times the forecasted amount. 

The rainfall defied all predictions and the water levels had become unmanageable. The rivers like Bharathapuzha, Periyar, Achan Kovilar, Chalakkudippuzha, Pamba and others swelled  and started to overflow, flooding the banks and riverside areas. All the 82 dams were filled to the maximum reservoir level. Heavy rainfall also led to landslides, resulting in the diversion of the route of the rivers. Thousands of hectares of standing crops were ruined and cattle and poultry perished. Hundreds of houses and buildings collapsed due to the impact of flood waters.  The houses and offices had gone fully under water and even the multi-storeyed buildings faced the fury of flood. The geographical features of the land were altered in many parts of the state.
Residential and commercial areas were completely flooded due to the extremely heavy rain and the diversion of the rivers. Many roads and bridges had collapsed due to the impact of the fast flowing waters. About ten thousand houses had submerged in water.  Huge amount of water had entered into the houses. So many houses had to be demolished. Huge number of houses had fallen into the unusable category. Floodwaters had entered into agricultural lands and crops were under water. Agricultural crops in 54,000 hectares have perished and the commercial and industrial establishments had been ruined. More than 50,000 cattle and 2 lakh poultry had been killed. The livelihood of the persons who are staying in flooded areas had been destroyed.
The government offices were not spared by the flood waters and many documents had been damaged and some were irrecoverably lost. The geographical and environmental consequences are yet to be completely assessed. The landscape has witnessed dramatic changes. The effect of the landslide and landslip will have impacts upon the life of the upcoming generations. The ecological stability of various areas has been affected. The cultural symbols, monuments and the institutions which were built by the centuries of human effort have been affected.

The damage caused by the flood in Kerala cannot be estimated without taking into account the ecological diversity of the affected areas. Geographical and ecological peculiarities make Kerala an ecological hot spot.
Kerala has 44 rivers of which 41 originate from Western Ghats which flow westward and reach the Arabian Sea and the other three rivers are the tributaries of river Cauvery. This state-wide network of rivers augmented the extent of the calamity. 
The water from Western Ghats reaches Arabian Sea within hours. Heavy rainfall in any region, can affect the people in all regions including the coastal belt. The density of population in Kerala is 860 which is much higher than the national level average of  382. Because of the higher density, the probability of being affected by floods is higher in Kerala than in other states.
Kerala have 4,354 ponds with an average size of 1.61 hectare area. Around 10 percent of the land lies below the sea level. In the history of Kerala, there was a big flood in 1924. Now the density of population is much higher than that of 1924 and gradual expansion of human settlement had narrowed down the escape routes of water.

The Kerala government has taken a very strong action for overcoming the flood. All people from various walks of life had appreciated the intervention of the government. Coordinated and continuous effort under the leadership of the chief minister had provided the base for the rescue and relief operations since the very beginning of the calamity.
The secular fabric and composite culture of Kerala society were palpable at the time rescue and relief activities. The people participated in rescue efforts with unity and none of the differences in colour, caste or religion could break the collectivity. It showed the humanitarian values and social commitment that forms the core of the public action model of Kerala development. CPI(M) has congratulated the chief minister and the government machinery for their impressive initiatives. The Party state committee has congratulated its units for their dedicated efforts through which they could perform the hard and tough works which were the need of the hour during the days of calamities.

The first incident which resulted in the loss of human lives occurred at Kattippara in Kozhikode district. A house had collapsed due to landslide and 14 persons in it had lost their lives. There were few more instances of landslides in this area. Large number houses had been broken and agricultural crops had been ruined. On the very next day of the incident, the chief minister of Kerala had convened a meeting of the state level disaster management authority and video conference was conducted with all the district collectors.
The water level had increased in Alappuzha, Kottayam, Eranakulam and Kollam districts because of the continuous rain. The people who were staying in flooded areas had been shifted to the relief camps. On the basis of experience and information from the IMD, the government had announced various levels of alerts from time to time. The dams in the state had reached the maximum reservoir level. Some of the dams overflowed including Peringalkooth. Malappuram, Palakkad and Kannur districts had witnessed huge damages in all sectors. Wayanad district had been marooned due to the landslides and extreme rain.

When the calamity started, the government had put up an observatory cell within no time. Every day, morning and evening, a meeting to review the rescue operations and the planning and implementation of emergency works was held under the leadership of the chief minister. In these meetings, they had finalised how the resources, including the human resources and capital resources, will be distributed. They have deployed the state and central agencies in rescue works and this entire job had been done in a very successful manner.
At the time of increasing rainfall, government had started a 24 hours observatory cell.  Each district was monitored by the state ministers. In the first stage, the government had given priority to saving human lives.
439 persons lost their lives during the calamities since May 29. Government had released Rs Four lakh each to the kin of 334 bereaved families.  The government had also released immediate assistance of Rs 10,000 each to 5,58,335 families till October 3, 2018. Government has also taken steps to release an interest free loan of Rs 1 Lakh each to 1,39,785 families through Kudumbasree by availing a loan of Rs 925 crores from banks. The interest of the loan will be given by the government. Steps have been taken by the government to issue the lost certificates of the students  and documents like RC book, driving licence and other documents through Adalath. Besides these, the government has also taken measures to repair the fishing boats of the fisherman community. Note books and text books were given to 40,575 students.

The rescue operations and relief activities had shown the social commitment and dynamism of the Communist Party cadres in Kerala. The interventions of Party cadres had started from the very moment the calamity started. The cadres bravely came forward ready to perform the rescue operations even at a great risk to their own lives. They had taken the initiative to shift the affected people from the danger zone to the relief camps or safety zones. The interventions in conducting the relief camps and collecting the resources for facing the problems are notable in the history of Kerala. After the flood, the cleaning activities have been conducted. The volunteer comrades from other districts have gone to Alappuzha, Thrissur, Ernakulam, Pathanamthitta and Wayanad.
In the cleaning activities in Ernakulam district, 53,112 volunteers had participated. In this, 5,340 volunteers were from Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad and Kollam districts. In Pathanamthitta, more than 35,000 volunteers participated from Kollam, Kottayam and Idukki. Comrades from Thiruvananthapuram district (5935), Kollam (1523), Malappuram (659), Kannur (1412), Palakkad (786), Kottayam (145), Kasargod (93) and Kozhikode (197) had reached for cleaning works in Alappuzha. 885 comrades from Kozhikode, Malappuram, Palakkad, Kasargod and Kannur participated in the cleaning works in Thrissur.
The class and mass organisations had done a very impressive job. CITU comrades in the fisheries sector have received admiration and applause from all walks of societal life. Youth brigade of DYFI, various teams of AIDWA, Head Load Workers’ Union and Construction Workers Union have performed their tasks in a very systematic manner.

In the rescue and relief activities, the mobilisation of resources is also very important. The Party and the mass organisations made lot of efforts in mobilising resources. Party state committee had taken lot of initiatives towards this end. All the units of Party had collected money and materials for the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. The collected amount in total was  Rs. 40,18,94,145.
The call for fund mobilisation was issued by the Kerala state committee of the Party and it was conducted on August 18-19, 2018. The state committee had fervently appealed to the people of the state to contribute generously to aid the rescue and relief works. The response of the common people has reflected  in the amount which the Party could collect.
The district wise figures are given below.

District Amount in Rupees
Kasargod 1,50,99,753
Kannur 8,35,89,067
Wayanad 40,00,000
Kozhikode 2,64,93,802
Malappuram 2,64,24,400
Palakkad 2,40,12,161
Thrissur 4,15,95,813
Ernakulam 39,21,061
Idukki 1,61,88,790
Kottayam 1,41,00,000
Alappuzha 79,40,000
Pathanamthitta 35,09,110
Kollam 2,08,19,430
Thiruvananthapuram 2,61,81,870
Total 31,38,75,257

Donations to CMDRF received from other states is shown below:
Sl.No. State Amount
1 Andhra Pradesh 59,89,738
2 Assam 7,50,000
3 Chhattisgarh 50,000
4 Delhi 1,10,32,499
5 Gujarat 30,16,178
6 Haryana 33,16,986
7 Himachal Pradesh 6,33,829
8 Jharkhand 10,91,780
9 Karnataka 8,25,304
9 Madhya Pradesh 7,50,438
10 Maharashtra 1,87,82,434
11 Odisha 19,67,042
12 Punjab 25,00,000
13 Tamil Nadu 1,26,12,000
14 Telangana 49,09,814
15 Tripura 24,05,936
16 Uttarakhand 2,00,000
17 Uttar Pradesh 14,76,106
18 West Bengal 1,50,67,327
19 CC units and All India Centre 3,33,469
20 Amount received at All India Centre from individuals 1,40,950
21 Cheques received at All India centre to CMDRF 1,67,058
Total 8,80,18,888

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