Congress President-elect Rahul Gandhi on Thursday visited Cyclone Ockhi hit areas in southern Kerala that has claimed 66 lives, most of them fishermen.
Addressing the families of fishermen who died in the cyclone and interacting with them, Gandhi said the state and Central governments need to learn lessons from the natural calamity, which has also left 95 fishermen missing.
“When a tragedy happens, everyone must learn from the tragedy and avoid such a situation in future. We must have a better system of warning for the fishermen who are going to the sea,” he said speaking to affected families in coastal hamlet Poonthura, near Thiruvananthapuram.
Holding that the condition of fishermen was very similar to that of farmers, the Congress leader said, “They are both facing very difficult times.”
Referring to the demand of local Latin Catholic church, he said it was time a separate ministry was set up for fishermen at the Centre.
“The farmers have a ministry that looks after their interests and I think it is time that we create a ministry for the fishermen to look after their interests and make sure they are protected,” he said.
Gandhi, who is here after hectic electioneering in Gujarat, said he wanted to come to meet the families earlier. But due to prior programmes in connection with the Gujarat polls, he could not do so and expressed his apology.
“Some of you have lost sons, some of you lost husbands. This loss cannot be replaced...we will try to make your life as?comfortable as possible,” he said.
The cyclone hit the coast of Kerala and neighbouring Tamil Nadu on November 30, claiming 66 lives and causing widespread damage besides leaving several fishermen stranded and missing.
Earlier, Gandhi paid floral tributes in front of pictures of those who perished in the cyclone.
He also consoled the families and interacted with them.
Later, he visited nearby Vizhinjam and met the affected fishermen families and assured them that the Congress would discharge its duty as the principal opposition to bring pressure on the governments to get everyone necessary compensation.
“I am confident the Congress will play its role,” he said.
He also said the Congress party was committed to setting up a Ministry for fishermen at the Centre and offered all help to fishermen to overcome the present crisis.
Consoling the fishermen community, including the women folk who broke down during the interaction, Gandhi said, “What you have lost cannot be measured in terms of value and so my words cannot replace your loss.”
Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala, former chief minister Oommen Chandy and Congress MPs Shashi Tharoor and K C Venugopal were among those who accompanied Gandhi.