Rescue ops by armed forces in Kerala sets off debate

Rescue ops by armed forces in Kerala sets off debate

Rescue workers search for the bodies of missing persons after a landslide, triggered by heavy rains and floods, at Nenmara in Palakkad on Friday. PTI

The rescue and relief operations in the wake of Kerala’s worst floods since 1924 have, so far, been largely clear of political interests or differences.

But on the sidelines of what is evolving as one of the state’s biggest humanitarian crises, a debate has started playing out regarding the need to hand over the rescue operations entirely to the Armed Forces.

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala made the demand first, contending that the scale of the operation was beyond resources available with the state government. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan chose not to respond and reiterated that the need was for coordinated efforts by the state machinery and the central forces.

As the death toll rises and concerns emerge on help not reaching the thousands stranded in flooded houses, Chennithala and other Congress leaders have returned to the debate.

On Friday, the Opposition leader even handed over a memorandum in this connection to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he arrived for a visit to the state.

Speaking with reporters here on Saturday, Chennithala urged the state government to shed its “ego” and entrust the forces with the evacuation of the flood victims.

“Distress calls are pouring in from the affected areas. It’s disheartening to note that they haven’t been addressed for four days,” Chennithala said.

When the chief minister did an aerial survey of the affected regions, the Opposition leader was also asked to join in, a move lauded by many.

Even as Chennithala maintains that his criticism is not on political lines, the call for Armed Forces to take over the operations has also set off a political debate.