KANYAKUMARI/THIRUVANANTHAPURAM — Tamil Nadu and Kerala Dec. 19 sought over Rs. 17,500 crore for relief and rehabilitation work as Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a whirlwind one-day visit to the state’s coastal areas and Lakshadweep, where he met with and promised help to the families of fishermen who went missing when Cyclone Ockhi hit the southern coast.
"This is not the time for lecture and I assure you that we will do everything to help you. That's why I have come. We are all with you and will do everything. With Christmas round the corner, we wish all the missing to return back," he said in brief remarks while meeting the missing fishermen’s families in Poonthura near Thiruvananthapuram.
Modi arrived at the Poonthura Community hall to meet directly with families whose near and dear ones either died or remain missing. He listened patiently as Union Tourism and IT Minister K.J. Alphons translated.
After meeting with the bereaved locals, the prime minister took the stage and spoke briefly.
"The cyclone hit Lakshadweep, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and many of the fishermen are yet to return. We have taken quick action by first sending defense minister. The whole country is with you in your grief," he said to claps from the grief-stricken families.
Kerala Chief Secretary K.M. Abraham made a presentation highlighting the fishermen’s various needs. The Kerala government sought a Rs. 7,340 crore package that included compensation for the 71 dead, help to the permanently disabled, housing construction, educational assistance, loan forgiveness and other programs to uplift the lives of those in the fishing communities.
More than 250 fishermen from Kerala remain missing following the Nov. 30 cyclone.
Governor P. Sathasivam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, his cabinet colleagues and officials were also present at the meeting with Modi.
Later, Modi briefly met state BJP leaders, who sought speedy approval of the package.
Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala expressed dissatisfaction that a Congress delegation was not permitted to meet the prime minister, despite repeated pleas.
"It is strange that even while we are the opposition here, we were ignored and the BJP was given preference, which does not augur well," he told reporters.
Modi flew into Kerala from cyclone-battered Lakshadweep and was received by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Modi then went by helicopter to Kanyakumari in neighboring Tamil Nadu before returning to Kerala in the evening and heading to Poonthura.
In Tamil Nadu, Modi visited Kanyakumari and met fishing and farming representatives affected by Ockhi.
The Tamil Nadu government has asked the Center for Rs. 9,302 crore towards relief and rehabilitation and urged the prime minister to declare the cyclone damage a national disaster.
Large tracts of rubber and banana plantations were damaged by the cyclone.
More than 70 fishermen from the southern districts of Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam in Kerala died in the cyclone while more than 250 remain missing. According to officials, the cyclone killed 18 people in Tamil Nadu while several others are still missing.