Close to 3.5 crore people. But one mind. One message. We are all one. As the skies opened up and the shutters of dams were raised one by one, Kerala was in the grip of an unprecedented crisis. As flood waters rose several feet and swathes of landscape came crashing down, people too opened up their hearts in equal measure in rescue and relief works. Coincidently, it is the Onam season in Kerala and they took a cue from a good old song ‘when Maveli reigned over the land, all men were equals’.
As the crisis deepened, people mounted an exemplary operation rescuing thousands trapped in flooded houses. Lakhs were taken to relief camps. Hundreds of fishermen rushed to the trouble spots in their boats. None had asked them, but the sons of the sea knew better than anyone else what harm raging waters can do. Army and disaster redressal forces too did a yeoman service. Youth and student volunteers moved around collecting materials and reaching them to the needy. Several churches opened their gates and converted them into relief camps; priests went around monitoring relief operations; party offices became control rooms; social and religious organisations came out in large numbers to extend a helping hand.
Many families opened up their homes to the victims; they posted on social media, “It is your home too as it is ours. Come and stay with us.” Temples offered money collected from their donation boxes to relief camps. The usually lethargic government officials worked for long hours, devoid of food and sleep. Collectors and district police chiefs spent sleepless nights piecing together the threads of relief work. Judges lent their shoulders in loading and unloading relief materials.
The media gave a break to its cantankerous panel discussions and focused on rescue and relief operations. They gathered information from the stranded and passed it on to the rescue teams. Kerala’s rescue efforts are a case study on how human spirit can trump divisive and polarising politics. The people stood together as one body; they did not allow divisive forces to hijack relief operations; and they pulled the State out of its biggest crisis in a century.
However, as people struggle to cope with the tragedy, the Centre’s delay in permitting the State to receive aid from foreign countries, citing technical reasons, has come as a rude shock. It is nothing but a step-motherly treatment. Reports say that Gujarat had received crores from foreign countries when an earthquake had struck the State in 2001. There are also some people with rotten minds and putrid brain who indulge in false propaganda. One such rambling speech came from a BJP media cell in-charge who mindlessly asked people not to donate money to Chief Minister’s relief fund as it might be pocketed by middlemen. He made yet another senseless statement that the victims are all middle class or rich people who do not require help. There are also reports of shopkeepers charging exorbitant rates and anti-social elements indulging in looting. These could be aberrations. But people have to isolate such voices and misdeeds. At a time when thousands are left homeless and lakhs of people are devoid of even the basic necessities to keep the body and soul together, nothing should hamper the good deeds being done by people.(Published on 27th August 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 35)