Though cyclones that batter the AP coast frequently cause devastation on an unprecedented scale, nothing much has been done to reduce their severity which could be done by raising plantations or construction of houses for residents designed to face them.
Though 1977 tidal wave that left thousands of people dead in Diviseema in Krishna and coastal villages in Guntur is a distant memory but it, in fact, led to an awareness in successive governments that they had to do something when the sea is calm so that they could face it when it becomes rough.
This has resulted in an explosion in technology that helped in knowing about cyclones days ahead which helped the governments save lives. But what the governments could not do till now is taming the weather systems and helping the vulnerable population in facing them.
On October 11, Titli hit the northernmost part of Andhra Pradesh. It was a very severe cyclone which scythed through Srikakulam district like wrath of God, claiming more than a half a dozen lives and leaving a trail of destruction.
After Hudhud cyclone in October 2014, Titli was the most severe cyclone that hit the coast. Hudhud hit Visakhapatnam, exploding the myth that the port city is immune to cyclones because of its geographic location, at a time when Chandrababu Naidu was finding his feet in the truncated State of Andhra Pradesh.
At that time, Naidu had a friend in Prime Minister Narendra Modi who visited the cyclone affected parts of Visakhapatnam. This time there was no such luck. There was no Prime Minister, no Union Minister visiting Srikakulam. Only BJP State president Lakshminarayana was there to look around the destruction caused by the system.
Though Naidu spent several days at Srikakulam and his son Lokesh camping even now along with 14 other Ministers, normalcy is yet to be restored. People are having difficulty for water, essential commodities and power supply. Though officials are working overtime, the task they are facing, is by no means, a mean one.
Then the inevitable has happened. The cyclone became a political issue. Naidu, after waiting for 10 days for help, demanded that the Centre declare the devastation by Titli as a national calamity and help the State accordingly. Though the State had sent a preliminary report recently, the Centre has remained unmoved. Now Naidu dashed off another letter, asking for an immediate release of Rs 1,200 crore for use for cyclone relief and rehabilitation. Naidu put the total loss at Rs. 3,435 crore of which damage to horticulture alone accounted for Rs 1,000 crore.
Naidu also sought help form philanthropists, affluent sections, NRIs and industrialists to adopt villages in the cyclone-hit areas and take up restoration of basic infrastructure. He also made an appeal to the people to donate liberally for use in providing relief to the victims. He, however, did not hide his displeasure now and then over the way the Centre was responding to the pleas for help and took strong exception to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh not bothering to pay a visit to Srikakulam even though he attended party programmes in Guntur recently.
As the unremitting agony of the people is continuing, the political parties have already started indulging in fisticuffs. Lakshminarayana wanted Naidu to disclose what he had done with funds he had collected at the time of Hudhud cyclone before making an appeal to people to crowdfund the cyclone mitigation works.
For once, the Centre and also the State should realise that it is not the time for a wrestling bout but one where both should sit together and plan short term and long-term measures to help the people face cyclones not only in Srikakulam but all along AP’s coast. It would not be inappropriate if the Centre constitutes a task force to study the pattern of cyclones and come up with measures that could tame the fury of the nature and insulate people, their property and agriculture farms against damage. #KhabarLive