Kerala Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala on Wednesday said the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Democratic Front government was responsible for the worst floods in the state in close to a century, The News Minute reported. The Congress leader said the government had not properly managed opening the shutters of the state’s 44 dams.
“I hold this government totally responsible for the man-made disaster in Kerala,” The Indian Express quoted Chennithala as saying. He also demanded a judicial investigation and the prosecution of those responsible for the calamity.
“The rain has subsided,” Chennithala tweeted. “After devastating flood, situation is back under control. Now it’s the time for the government to face tough questions.”
He questioned why the shutters of 34 dams were opened in one go. “Was there any preparations before taking this step? Where is SDMA?” he asked, referring to the state disaster management authority.
“They did not have proper protocol, warning system, flood management system in place,” the Congress leader alleged. “Had they heeded the warning, we could have reduced the impact of the floods.”
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan termed the allegations that all dams were opened at once baseless. At a press conference on Wednesday, Vijayan said Idamalayar and Idukki dams were opened after proper inspection and deliberation with officials.
Vijayan told ANI that the Mullaperiyar dam was opened on August 15. “Nobody could’ve foreseen this but still warnings were given [and] evacuations were done.”
Chennithala claimed that a disaster was avoided during the 2013 floods in the state because the Oommen Chandy-led Congress government acted fast. “In 2013, during the southwest monsoon, the Idukki dam was not opened even though it was full,” he said. “Instead, other small dams were opened. Besides, there was no rain forecast then. Aryadan Muhammed, who was the minister for electricity and transport then, anticipated the situation, heeded the warning and did the needful. That is disaster management.”
Water levels at several dams in Kerala reached peak levels by mid-July. However, the state electricity board, which operates several dams, including the Cheruthoni dam in Idukki district, chose to open the shutters only in August. The shutters of the dam were opened on August 9 after 26 years.
In a show of unity during the floods, the Opposition leader had set aside political differences and had accompanied Vijayan on an aerial survey. This was apparently the first instance in the state’s political history of a leader of the Opposition travelling with the chief minister to a disaster area, and earned both of them praise on social media. “We have to keep aside all differences and work together for the people at this hour of crisis,” Chennithala had then said.
Editorial critical of Centre taken off website
Kesari, a weekly affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, on Wednesday published an editorial on its website criticising the Centre’s handling of the situation. But later in the day, it was taken down, with the publication claiming that its website was hacked and the article published in place of the intended editorial.
A ticker flashing on top of the website said, “Someone hacked into the official Kesari website and changed the edit column on August 22. The weekly or publisher has nothing to do with it.”
The editorial, taken off the site, said that the central government appeared to be acting vengefully towards Kerala, reported The Indian Express, and was not responding with the political decency shown by Vijayan.
The editorial was addressed to “friends of the Sangh” and said it would be cheating “Sangh sympathisers, Kerala, and ourselves” if we don’t speak up about the neglect being meted out to the state by the movement we believed in so long. “The Centre has been made aware that a significant number of Sangh followers have been affected by the floods, but the whole of Kerala is being punished for small political gains,” it said.