Dissatisfaction over cyclone Gaja relief work is palpable in Tamil Nadu. The cyclonic storm accompanied by heavy rain, which hit the state on November 16, is said to have caused more destruction than cyclone Thane of 2011, with a confirmed death toll of 63.
Farmers’ suicides are being reported from the cyclone-hit areas, owing to the loss of crops and livelihood. Opposition leader M K Stalin of DMK tweeted that two farmers committed suicide today in the state. Instances of people blocking the roads and stopping ministers and officials from visiting places were widely reported.
The Opposition, which had applauded the state government for its disaster management work in the preliminary stage, has gradually turned against it, and is now raising questions. Ministers from the state Cabinet have been defending the government, and have blamed DMK, the main opposition party, for politicising the issue.
Meanwhile, Chief Minister E Palaniswami visited Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi, and briefed him about the situation. He requested an aid of Rs 15,000 crore for the Gaja-hit districts from the Centre. Over one lakh electric poles have been uprooted, and many power sub-stations have been damaged in the state. The state government had already released a sum of Rs 1,000 crore from the state disaster management fund for immediate relief work.
The CM’s visit to Delhi, however, has invited strong criticism from the Opposition. Stalin attacked the chief minister on social media, saying that the CM should visit the people, and not Delhi. The CM had, on Tuesday, visited Pudukkottai district only, and reportedly had gone back to Chennai, citing ‘bad weather’. Stalin also asked the government to take preventive measures against the farmers committing suicide in the context of Gaja.
In Thiruvarur, from where 13 deaths have been reported, people blocked the roads, and did not allow the officials to visit the place, as they reportedly hadn’t received any relief material or help from the government – even five days after the storm hit. Thirutturaippundi,Muthupet, Mannargudi and Kottur are the worst hit areas in the district, said G Sundaramoorthi, district secretary, CPI(M).
“It looks like everything is washed out in here. There is no electricity in cities or the villages. The government has started to restore power in some places now. Many trees were uprooted. People are helping the officials to clear them. Transport services are being re-established gradually. In villages, huts and tiled houses are completely destroyed. Only a few concrete houses survived the storm. There is no drinking water available in any of these places. The government is giving only rice to the people in relief camps. This is making life in the camps very difficult,” added Sundaramoorthi.
According to a The Hindu report, a senior official said it would take at least a month to restore normalcy in Nagapattinam, one of the worst hit districts in the state. Other districts which witnessed huge destruction areThiruvarur, Thanjavur, Pudukkottai and Karaikkal in Puducherry.
Harikrishnan, a Tamil Nadu Electricity Board foreman, who is active in the restoration work, told Livemint that the situation is much worse than that after previous cyclones such as Thane (2011), Vardha (2017) and Okhi (2018).
According to the government, more than two and half lakh people were evacuated, and shifted to over 500 relief camps. About 88,102 hectares of agricultural and horticultural crops have been damaged, and 4,800 fishing boats damaged, reported the Livemint.
Political parties are collecting and distributing relief material in the storm-hit districts. AIADMK, the ruling party, invited criticism for using their symbol on the relief material.