There will be no Onam celebrations this year in Kerala. Heavy rains that lashed the state since early August and led to floods across the state has unleashed devastation and despair on a scale that is unprecedented. Entire cities, towns and villages have gone under water leaving over 3 lakh people to seek shelter in the relief camps opened across all 14 districts of the state. So far 324 deaths have been reported, but the toll could be much higher as relief teams reach homes and settlements which were hitherto rendered inaccessible because of the flood waters. The situation is extremely grave and will continue to be so even after the rains subside and the waters recede.
An interactive map to help Kerala residents find helpline numbers, relief camps and source essentials
It is not as if Kerala has not been crying out for help. Its SOS signals, however, failed to elicit the deserved response from the Centre. Initially, despite the magnitude of the calamity, just a paltry sum of Rs 100 crore was released by Delhi. It has now been upped by an additional Rs 500 crore -- woefully short of the estimated Rs 19,512 crore loses caused by the floods. Even central assistance in the form of army personnel, special rescue teams and choppers were not scrambled together with a sense of urgency. The initial tepid response can be summed up as a shocking display of apathy to a human tragedy unfolding on such a massive scale.
Kerala even failed to make the headlines in the mainstream national media. TV news channels which normally send dedicated teams to provide in-depth coverage of natural calamities, were preoccupied with other events of national importance. Several mainstream newspapers continued to bury the news in the inside pages even as the death toll mounted. Perhaps a frustrated Congress MP, Shashi Tharoor was not incorrect when he pointed out that the media coverage was grossly inadequate. “It is a sad reflection of the truism that the farther you are from Delhi, the less you matter in today's India,” he tweeted on Independence Day from his constituency, Thiruvananthapuram.
As things stand now, the southern state needs urgent assistance from every resource and quarter. For a start, the Centre must declare the Kerala floods as a “national calamity”. It should simultaneously step up relief and allocate funds for rebuilding and rehabilitation. On its part, civil society from across the country must come forward to help. The state immediately requires assistance of every kind — food, clothing, medicines, doctors, nursing staff and volunteers. Needless to say, the media also has a crucial role to play. It can draw public attention to the crisis and motivate those willing to come forward to help.
As a nation, we must join hands in Kerala’s hour of need. Please send your donations to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund. Contribution can be made directly by going to donation.cmdrf.kerala.gov.in