Kerala's Own Army; Our Heroes
Sreeshma K

The catastrophic flood, landslides and heavy rainfalls made the state to witness the worst disaster in it’s history. The state of Kerala has been putting up a fierce fight against the odds for the past few days. The real heroes of this rescue mission are the fishermen from various coastal towns of Kerala who voluntarily came up for the rescue of thousands caught up in the flood.

Five days of agony, 361 lives claimed, and as many as lakh survivors relocated safely to relief camps. Kerala flood’s rescue mission will be marked in history as unparalleled.

While army, navy and NDRF were all dedicatedly engaged in the rescue mission, another group of people were there at the disaster front, determined to save the last life caught in the flood. These fishermen, who travelled over 120 kilometers with their boats to the disaster-struck areas, are the unsung heroes of this historic rescue mission.

Fishermen from the coastal towns and villages of the state were the pivotal force of rescue operations. Instead of waiting for instructions, they gathered their oars and set out to pull Kerala out of the havoc. They came from Poonthura, Vypin, Cherai, Alapuzha, and Neendakara, to places that are far away from their homes. They did not fear for their lives. All they wanted to do was to reach out to every single person who was in need of help.

Death tolls in totally isolated locales like Chengannur were slackened considerably, thanks to the timely interventions of our fisher folk. Almost 80% of the survivors from Chengannur were rescued by this voluntary rescue force. 1200 fishermen, and 460 outboard engine boats could do far more than the trained task forces. They succeeded in rendering help across all the inundated narrow lanes, when the army failed to take their rescue boats in.

Despite of being provided with any kind of security measures, the collective efforts of fishermen did not go futile. They pooled in all the money they had to fuel engines. They survived sleepless nights, and often worked round the clock on the most optimum food resources they could save in.

Kerala Independent Fishworkers Union opened their own control room to coordinate between district administration, disaster management team, indian coast guard and police. Collaborating with the local residents, they entered the most difficult terrains, swam across the turbulence, located all the stranded people. They saved over thirty five thousand lives.

It is estimated that they have faced a loss of about three lakh Indian rupees. With broken fibre boats, damaged engines and sustained injuries, the fisherfolk of kerala are still contented to have done their part in reviving the state. These men are from the same community which was torn apart in the deadly outburst of Okhi cyclone few months back. They were left out to be washed away by the tides, and their homes were smashed into pieces. And now, this is how this forgotten, abandoned set of people showed the world how they matter.

What they pose before us is a new, innovative and functional method of disaster management. Their effort comes out of all the lived experiences they have had. And that is why these fisherfolk shall be counted as our unsung heroes.

These fishermen of our land had vowed to save their state, and they have been true to their word. This is our state’s army, says the Chief Minister. Kerala will have to remember them