December 14, 2017
Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi, who has managed to effect an image makeover ahead of Gujarat elections, on Thursday came calling on fisherfolk in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Fisherfolk in Kerala and Tamil Nadu are protesting against the alleged inaction by the centre and the state government in rescuing their near and dear ones hit by cyclone Ockhi.
Earlier, Rahul Gandhi was being dismissed derisively as Pappu – who is a bumbling bafoon – but now is being taken seriously. Which is why, his visit to Tamil Nadu and Kerala, immediately after campaigning for Gujarat assembly elections were over on Thursday, gains more significance in the context of his continuing image makeover.
Firstly, Rahul Gandhi apologised to people in these two states for his inability to visit them in their time of trouble due to elections in Gujarat. And then immediately he dived into the immediate havoc caused by the cyclone Ockhi.
Fisherfolk allege that the advance warnings were not adequate and after the cyclone struck, the central government agencies and the state machinery were found wanting in mounting rescue attempts, resulting in the huge number of missing fishermen.
“Today, farmers have a separate Ministry (at the Centre) but there is no such Ministry to deal with the fisheries sector. I would like to see a new Ministry set up to look into the needs of the fishery sector,” Rahul Gandhi said by way of offering a positive suggestion. He said that the Congress party will raise the issue in Parliament, he said.
Everyone “should learn from their mistakes”, Gandhi said.
The Congress President elect arrived in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday on a day-long visit to fishing villages that were hit by Cyclone on November 30. A huge turnout of local fisherfolk at Poonthura and Vizhinjam heard the Congress leader patiently. These two villages accounted for the maximum deaths among fishermen — over 30 — in the cyclone. More than 70 are still missing. “I should have come here before… Even though I was not physically present when the tragedy struck, I was here in spirit,” Gandhi told the villagers.
Rahul Gandhi took a chopper ride to visit a fishing village in Kanyakumari district.
Opposition leaders in Tamil Nadu have been castigating the state government, and also the central government for ignoring the plight of the fishermen and their families.