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  • News from Sneharam, Kerala

    05 Jan 2018

    Lok  Manch has been accompanying the victims of the Okhi Cyclone disaster through their support to the animators and coordinators of Cheru Resmi Centre and Trivandrum Social Service Society. Adhwana, another Lok Manch partner organization, has offered to support in the research and documentation related to the mitigation and disaster preparedness of the fishers of Thiruvananthapuram.

    During a two-hour long Focus Group Discussion (FGD) conducted at Poonthura on the eve of Christmas, the fisher youth participants questioned why the Government was not ready to start the rescue operations on time. (According to a report published in The Hindu Newspaper on 1 December 2017, ‘efforts to rescue fishermen were launched a full 40 hours after the storm had started wreaking havoc along the Kerala coast’). Most of them had barely saved themselves or been rescued by others. The preliminary findings of the FGDs showed how the Okhi disaster has exposed different aspects of the vulnerability of the coastal population, the prominent ones being (1) over-dependence on fishing for livelihood, (2) lack of job diversification, (3) lack of disaster preparedness and coordination from the part of various Government departments, (4) lack of community-based risk reduction communication and disaster management and (5) socio-cultural exclusion of the fishing community from the mainstream communities that makes their life and livelihood issues a low priority.

    In the meetings of the disaster management committees at Sneharam held on 2 December 2017 and after, to prepare a collective response to be presented in the meeting the Collector had scheduled prior to the Okhi disaster, we came to know that except one person all the participants did not make use of the Radio Monsoon phone number they were given to contact before they left for their work in the sea. This revealed how many more creative efforts need to be initiated to influence the risk communication culture of the fishers in places like Poonthura and Anchuthengu.

    Fr Benny C., S. J., the Lok Manch State Coordinator and Fr Deepak organized a prayer service and adoration at Poonthura. The adoration on the eve of the New Year was a sequel to the homily he preached on 30th during the Mass held for the fishermen who were yet to return home safe or feared killed in the sea. The struggles of the surrounding parish priests of the coastal parishes, especially Fr Justin Jude of Poonthura Parish to support the victims and to get the media to ensure visibility of the Okhi Disaster-related issues, were inspiring. Right now, the disaster affected people need our psycho-social and spiritual support along with whatever financial help we can muster for them. 

    - Fr. Benny C., S.J.