‘Will fight for a separate fisheries ministry at Centre’

Rahul Gandhi meets kin of fishers; vows to champion their cause

December 15, 2017 12:52 am | Updated March 13, 2018 12:03 am IST - KANNIYAKUMARI

Reaching out:  Congress president Rahul Gandhi interacting with the family members of fishermen  at Chinnathurai in Kanniyakumari district on Thursday.

Reaching out: Congress president Rahul Gandhi interacting with the family members of fishermen at Chinnathurai in Kanniyakumari district on Thursday.

Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi on Thursday assured to fight for the formation of a separate ministry for fisheries in the Central government, which, according to him, could have made the difference during natural calamities like Cyclone Ockhi.

Addressing the cyclone-affected families from the fishing community at Chinnathurai village here, he said that while both farmers and fishermen in the country were facing hardships, the fishermen did not even have a separate ministry.

“During times like these, there should be an institution and a Minister, whom the fishermen can look up to for help,” he added.

He said that though the Congress was not in power both at the Centre and in Tamil Nadu, the party had a key role to play as the Opposition.

Referring to the damage and trauma suffered by both fishermen and farmers due to the cyclone, he said that his party would highlight their plight and demands in Parliament and in the Tamil Nadu Assembly so that their issues were addressed.

The Congress leader said he wanted to visit the families soon after the disaster struck on November 30, but could not do so because of prior commitments in connection with the Gujarat election. “I apologise for visiting you so late,” he said, to loud cheers from the crowd, as TNCC president Su. Thirunavukkarasar translated his English speech into Tamil.

Cheerful welcome

In sharp contrast with the recent visit of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, who met a section of the affected families in a college auditorium in nearby Thoothoor village, Mr. Gandhi’s meeting was organised in an open arena in front of St. Judes Church at Chinnathurai.

He received a cheerful welcome from the crowd, partially owing to the reason that the villages around Chinnathurai have a sizeable population traditionally sympathetic to the Congress party.

Mr. Gandhi listened to the stories of several affected families from Chinnathurai and surrounding villages, including many women who have lost their family members.

R. Rabisha, whose family had missed two men who ventured into the sea before the cyclone, said that she requested his help to intensify the search and rescue operations.

L. Shabin, parish priest, Chinnathurai, who also spoke to Mr. Gandhi, said that they highlighted the need for declaring Cyclone Ockhi a natural disaster and forming a separate ministry for fishermen. “He assured to raise it in Parliament,” he said.

Mr. Gandhi, in his speech, however, refrained from any criticism of the Union or State governments for the alleged lacunae in the rescue and rehabilitation measures.

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