Demand emergency response system on the coast itself

The latest accident off the Alappuzha coast has once again pointed accusing fingers at the security and emergency response systems on the district coast.

The fishing community is livid over the allegedly delayed response of district authorities to both accidents, with several fishermen's organisations accusing the authorities here of remaining dependent on the Navy and the Coast Guard even after several incidents that should have kept them on their toes.

And they have their reasons too. The number of casualties in the latest accident, in which two persons were killed and three remaining untraced, could have been reduced to some extent had there been an emergency response system on the coast itself, they say, pointing at the coastal police station at Thottappally, the construction of which is over but yet to be opened, and the three fully equipped interceptor boats lying idle there.

Coastal police station

The Thottappally coastal police station was accorded sanction three years back, with construction starting in 2009. The building and the watch tower had been completed, with only a technical issue with the panchayat remaining to get a building number for the structure.

Recruitments to the proposed 44-strong staff pattern, comprising a circle inspector, sub-inspector, and three assistant sub-inspectors, too are yet to be made with the qualification criteria yet to be stipulated by the government.

These delays resulted in the three interceptor boats, equipped with the latest radars and other necessary equipment and with a cumulative worth of over Rs.6 crore, lying idle, their batteries drained out and the bodies starting to corrode, even a year after purchase.

Had these boats been operational, either the killer ship could have been traced without delay or the fishermen would have stood some chance of being rescued, the fishermen say. The boats, at present are docked at Thrikkunnapuzha.

It is not just for accidents that the coastal security and emergency response systems need to be strengthened, as recent history shows. In March 2009, the spotting of an unidentified group of persons on the Pallipuram coast had raised quite a furore, with the entire police force in the northern part of the district running into a frenzy, bringing even the Director-General of Police to the spot following doubts that the group comprised LTTE militants.

The police conducted a mock drill and after a night-long search, the group was identified as one of fishermen. That time too, the Navy and the Coast Guard had to be called in.

In 2010 and 2011, there were incidents of unidentified ships anchoring close to the coast, with reports of speed boats coming ashore and returning to the mother ship after purchasing diesel. These were later identified as “friendly vessels”.

Even as the coast remains open to literally anyone and with two accidents within a month, the fact remains that the authorities are yet to act.