The Kerala State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA) was formed as stipulated in the NDMA Act of 2005. It was constituted with the CM as Chairman and Revenue Minister as the Vice-Chairman along with a State Executive Committee. As is customary the board conducted its traditional array of activities that included various competitions like Quiz, Essay, Painting, a mock drill was held, women self-help groups were initiated, and international seminars were organized.
Disaster struck thirteen years down the line with intense ferocity and viciousness in the form of menacing floods that brought with it immense devastation to human life and property. Kerala was under siege with people taking elevated positions to escape drowning, the levels of water gained heinous proportions which severely restricted mobility!!
God’s own country cried aloud for His mercy!!
As the floodgates of heaven were thrown open, the sluice gates of the earthly dams were also raised to release the dam waters. The brutal force of the combined flow had its toll on the flora and fauna of the green land including the habitants!!
7000 houses were gutted, another 50,000 damaged, 80000 kms of roadways were washed away as the men, women and children struggled to stay afloat!! Population to the strength of lakhs took refuge in camps organized at comparatively dry areas which provided them food and a roof above their heads.
The use of technology hugely benefited both the survivors and the salvation army as well. Smartphones wherever permissible were used to convey danger or get information across to a large demographic.
Person finder tool by Google helped track almost 22,100 people. Kozhikode based Qkopy played a critical role in getting information out of people stranded in various locations.
Kerala rescue.in, the website was extensively used to coordinate relief efforts, they relied heavily on “Slack”. The CEO of Slack, Stewart Butterfield was kind enough to give the rescuers a free upgrade of the software. Several tech giants like Microsoft, Uber and Google extended their support to the victims in every conceivable way possible.
Remote sensing, GIS, satellite imagery is increasingly being used the world over to assess post-disaster scenario, gauge the level of damage and provide information to relevant circles. A set of remote sensing satellites and radar satellites have been clicking high-resolution images of the areas worst affected by the floods and the same has been conveyed to the relief centres and men at the helm for assistance.
The Army played a pivotal role in the rescue and resurrection operations. They saved around 23,213 lives as per the defence ministry report. 2000 people were provided medical aid, connectivity was restored at more than 45 locations. 22 landslides were cleared and 15 temporary bridges were constructed to facilitate easy movement.
The life saving techniques were unique to say the least. Choppers were pressed into service for airlifting people including a pregnant woman going through labour pains. The army personal confirmed that the lady successfully delivered the baby as well.
A flying ICU was made operational for diseased men with heart and other ailments. The ICU was stuffed with the state of the art gadgets inclusive of the ECG to detect and render quality aid to the sick.
The district collectors in the state especially central Kerala who faced the brunt of the floods have been highly proactive, accessible to the citizen and led from the front. T. V. Anupama, the district collector of Thrissur has been regularly posting updates round the clock on the official Facebook page to address issues related to the flood victims.
Food safety commissioner M.G. Rajamanikyam and Sub-Collector N. S. K. Umesh were seen unloading rice bags at the Wayanad Collectorate and others like RajGopal Sunkara a young Sub-Collector of Padmanapuram district waded through deep water to guide rescue operations. Hari Kishore a former Collector of Pathanamthitta was sent as a special officer to assist the relatively new district Collector P. B. Nooh. This was an example of innovative thinking!!!
The Khalsa Aid International, a UK based philanthropic group reached the state to help victims. Their group volunteers from the Indian wing reached Kochi and have set up a Langar to feed 3000 people daily!!
Help arrived voluntarily without having to seek for the same!!!
The floods indeed left a stockpile of destruction and devastation which will haunt the people of Kerala for the many years to come!! Keralites finally began to feel the ill-effects of a severe cash crunch required to rebuild their homes from scratch. The Government had to plan reconstruction of the public assets like roads, hospitals, schools and bridges for which resources and adequate funds were essential. While the lower class could claim compensation from the Government, the middle class were the most affected of the lot for the compensation sought would be inadequate to rebuild their shattered lives!!
Traders and owners of micro, small and medium enterprises could be appeased by considering the GST returns filed by them as the base to work out the losses incurred. It eventually appears to be the only occasion when honesty gets rewarded!!
Three lac farmers suffered heavy losses to crops spread over 56,439 hectares of land!! The losses are pegged at 21,345 Crores!! Added to the losses incurred by the impact on one’s livelihood, incomes and human development has also to be factored in during the times to come.
In more than two weeks Kerala’s flood relief collection touched 713.9 Cr. With the film fraternity contributing their mite towards flood relief with the likes of Mammooty, Mohanlal, Kamal Hasan doling out a generous amount of 25 Lacs, AMMA 10 lacs, Shahrukh Khan 21Lacs, and Amitabh Bachchan 51lacs, several others were equally benevolent like the Sun TV donating 1Cr, the MD of Lulu, Mr. Yusuf Ali 5 Cr, Attorney General Venugopal 1 Cr, Varun Gandhi 2 Lacs etc. Notable contribution came from a Kerala Pastor from Pathanamthitta district who offered 25 cents of his land to bury the dead!!! Very touching indeed!!!
The contribution from the states were indeed heart-warming. Delhi 10Cr, Bihar 10Cr, Odisha 10Cr, AP 10 Cr, Puducherry 1 Cr, Jharkhand 5 Cr, Maharashtra 20 Cr, Gujarat 10 Cr, Punjab 10 Cr, Telangana 25 Cr, WB 10 Cr, Chhattisgarh 3 Cr, Uttarakhand 5 Cr, MP 10 Cr, Karnataka 10 Cr, Manipur 2 Cr, Tripura 1 Cr.
While the social media was relentlessly proactive with succour and support to brethren in disaster a sadistic section of the same indulged in trading of blames!! While the CPI-led Government was severely criticized for turning a blind eye to the dangers sensed by the environmentalists at a time when they were traumatised with the gravity of the floods, various theories pertaining to Kerala’s liking for beef and its move to permit women to the Ayyappa shrine did the rounds on a frequent basis.
Kerala was designated as a land of atheist and hence was not worthy of donations from temples!!
Anti-communist floated a lot of videos in the social media forbidding people to donate money to Keralites as most of them are wealthy and could reject the money and goods sent to them.
The Central government has announced pittance as an aid to Kerala. A 600 Cr flood relief assistance will considerably fall short of its requirement when compared to the enormous contribution Kerala makes to the national exchequer! Floods are not that occurs frequently in Kerala despite the heavy rainfall and when the same happens once in a hundred years it needs to be attended with dignity and earnest!!
Ironically Kerala comprises of 28000 temples yet it is believed to be a land of atheist. However, divinity is all-encompassing and transcends beyond faith and beliefs.
I would like to believe that…….!!!