Will Kerala Celebrate Onam This Year? What Is The True Situation On Ground After Floods?

Posted: August 24, 2018
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After a major havoc that was created by the floods, here is what is needed for rebuilding Kerala and will it affect Onam celebrations this year?

A natural disaster that took more than 300 lives is now entering into the second and the toughest stage – the phase of rebuilding. As reported the rescue operations have ended and people are safe in relief camps. With water levels subsiding from the flood affected areas, they are all eager to get back to their homes in time for Onam. But it’s easier said than done.

Conditions that prevail – Maryann Sibin

A media student from Christ College, Bangalore, Maryann Sibin was with her parents in Kerala during the floods. From what she saw, she feels rehabilitation is going to take a really long time, maybe months to recover as houses are greatly damaged. Everywhere there is mud, dirt, insects, reptiles and animals both dead and alive that came with the water. Most of the houses were submerged and now have wet walls due to the same. It will have to be fixed first. It’s all happening slowly. “We are strong people. We will help each other and get through somehow.” says Maryann.

Essentials that people need – Rizwan Rahim

Rizwan Rahim from Kochi voluntarily got involved with many relief activities to help people in need. He said that they are working on ‘Back To Home’ kits and Cleaning Kits for people returning to their homes from relief camps. Back To Home kit would include some essentials like rice, sugar, tea powder, oil etc, for people to have something to start off with. Also cleaning kits would include bleaching powder, hand glows, dettol, rubber boots and essential medicine.

He proudly said, “All the relief work is being done purely on a humanitarian basis without any discrimination of caste, creed or religion.” He is also very grateful to all the external help that they are getting, be in monetary donations or relief materials from other parts of India and the world.  

Healthcare management is a priority – Dr. Sindhu Ramakrishna

There are other bigger concerns as well apart from house repairs and relief materials. The most important being health management. Sindhu Ramakrishna, a doctor specialised in community medicine (Public Health) said, “At these times there will be greater threat of vector-borne diseases like dengue and malaria. Also the nutritional status of vulnerable groups like infants, children, pregnant women will be very low. It can be dealt with by launching new suitable programmes by the Ministry of Health, Family Welfare and Social Welfare along with the support of NGOs.”

Another extremely important thing Dr. Sindhu mention was the counseling and psychological support. It’s highly necessary to reintegrate disaster survivors into the society. A sense of loss greatly affects human minds. Here people have lost their homes, money and also their loved ones. It’s traumatic to accept everything that has happened and move on with their life. They would definitely need a lot of emotional and moral support.    

Ecological Sustainability is what Kerala needs – Devisha Sasidevan

Devisha Sasidevan (Assistant Professor) from School of Social Work at TISS, working with farming communities in coastal Kerala, took part in the rescue operations. As she knew few farmers and fishermen, she headed off with them in boats to save people’s lives. Seeing with her own eyes the disaster, its dangers, loses and also the rescue operations in remote areas, Devisha said, “It was very scary.”

The work done by the farmers and fishermen is really surprising and impressive as well. They were the most affected but according to Devisha they were the first ones to respond. Who would ever know waters better than fisherfolks? Living on daily earnings they would have never had huge assets as such. But now even their small savings, houses and everything else is gone. It would take a really long time for them to get out of the socio-economic vulnerability.  

All that Devisha wants Kerala to focus on for the future is Ecological Sustainability. She feels lands, rivers, lakes, wells and other water sources must be planned and maintained well. Every possible measures and precaution must be taken to prevent such a massive scale disaster.

Amidst all this Kerala is not going to celebrate Onam this year. It is that festival when people believe the spirits of King Mahabali come visiting them, his people, to see them all happy and prosperous. As the conditions and situations are in no way festive or how Mahabali would have wanted to see, so will it be no Onam in Kerala this year?     

Image credit – Rizwan Rahim

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  1. It’s true, Kerala is going through a tough time, struggling to get over the devastation of a flood in hundred years. It’s well fitting to the Keralites, more than one-third of them facing the ravages of the tragedy in one form or the other to call off the Onam celebration. Not only in Kerala, wherever the Malayalis live, they have decided to cancel the Onam celebrations after have made preparations for it.

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