Cyclone Ockhi : Failures – UPSC GS3

Administrative failures
There are three basic failings in the government’s response:
  1. the cyclone warning was delayed;
  2. the warning was ineffective because it could not be conveyed to thousands of fisher folk who were already out at sea;
  3. and once the cyclone struck, there was no war-like mobilization and action, which are the hallmarks of good disaster management.
  • Cyclone Ockhi’s devastation started within 12 hours of the first “rough seas” warning that was put out on November 29.
  • Kanniyakumari has among the highest density of fisher folk in India.
  • Given the limited quantity of fish in near shore waters, many fisher folk have diversified into deep-sea and long-distance fishing.
  • Fishing voyages sometimes last from ten days to more than a month, the Indian Meteorological Department’s timing of the cyclone forecast was futile.
  • The government’s estimates suggest that 3,677 fishermen from Kanniyakumari and Kerala were lost in sea.
Role of Indian Coast Guard
  • Indian Coast Guard, with its seaborne vessels and helicopters, should have launched emergency search and rescue operations.
  • Coast Guard ships should have taken along a few fishermen from the villages as navigation assistants and should have intensely combed the area so that fishing boats and fishermen would have been found and rescued within the shortest possible time.
  • The Coast Guard did not go beyond 60 nautical miles saying that it cannot go beyond its jurisdiction. Indian Navy with its vast array of ships, aircraft and state-of-the-art technology should have stepped in immediately.
  • Later, the government announced the rescue/recovery of several hundred mechanised/motorised fishing boats and over 3,000 fishermen who had landed on the coasts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.
  • While the Coast Guard and the Indian Navy staked claim to this “rescue” mission, the fishing community leaders say that all these boats and the fishermen drifted to the coast on their own.
Relief and Rehabilitation
  • The cyclone has also resulted in massive losses to the livelihoods of people living in the coasts due to the destruction of crops, banana, rubber, coconut and forest trees.
  • The State government alone cannot take the huge burden of relief and rehabilitation and providing a decent compensation to the victims of the cyclone.
  • This calls for the combined efforts of the Central and State government (departments of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and fisheries) and various departments (rubber board, coconut board, spices board, etc.)
  • To get things moving, the Central Relief Commissioner should immediately visit the district, make realistic assessments, and award reasonable compensation immediately.

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