The severe cyclonic storm Gaja, which struck the Tamilnadu coast at Nagapattinam about 300km from Chennai on early November 16, 2018, left massive death and destruction in its wake.
At least 46 people have been reported killed. Severe damage has been reported in over ten districts, including Nagapattinam, Thiruvarur, Pudukottai and Thanjavur.
According to official reports of the Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority, nearly 90,000 people have been evacuated from low-lying areas to relief camps in six districts, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Pudukottai, Thanjavur, Ramanathapuram and Thiruvarur.
With wind speeds of over 120 kmph, hundreds of trees have been uprooted, blocking roads. There are reports of large-scale damage to houses and property. Over one lakh electric poles have been uprooted and a large number of power sub-stations have been damaged, with electricity supply disrupted for more than two weeks over large areas. Fishermen on the coast have been severely affected, their dwellings and boats destroyed.
Affected people in the region, particularly in the interior villages on the Nagapattinam-Vedaranyam stretch, are seething with anger at the utter apathy and neglect by the state authorities, following the devastating cyclone. In the relief camps, thousands of women, men and children are forced to live in miserable conditions, without water or food and prey to all kinds of diseases.
On November 18, hundreds of women and men, particularly from the interior villages near Vedaranyam, protested on the main road against their neglect by the state authorities after cyclone Gaja. In the 50-kilometre stretch between Nagapattinam to Vedaranyam, villagers blocked the roads at several spots in protest. Their demands included basic facilities like food and water, restoration of phone and electricity connections and a proper assessment of damages and compensation from the state. They demanded state assistance in rebuilding their broken homes and re-starting their livelihood.
Reports indicate that the affected people are enraged because they had been told by the state authorities several days before the cyclone actually struck, that all measures have been taken to protect their lives and livelihood. But they have suffered huge losses. The people’s anger is reported to have brimmed to such a point that a minister who visited one of the villages was gheraoed by the devastated villagers.
In the present case, the Meteorological Department and the Disaster Management department of the state had ‘assured’ that they had all arrangements in place, to avert any major disaster. However, when the cyclone struck, the reality proved to be very different. As in the case of earlier instances of floods, cyclones and other such disasters, the state authorities have been cruelly indifferent to the plight of the affected people. Left to fend for themselves, the victims are easy prey to moneylenders and other sharks who exploit their helplessness to make quick profits.
Communist Ghadar Party denounces the callousness and cruelty of the state towards the cyclone devastated people. CGPI calls on the people to unite and take forward the struggle to demand from the state authorities all the assistance required to rebuild their lives and livelihood.