‘I need every­one’s sup­port to re­build Ker­ala’

India Today - - THE BIG STORY RBI -

Ker­ala chief min­is­ter PI­NARAYI VI­JAYAN was still in of­fice on Tues­day night after a se­ries of meet­ings in the day. Re­view­ing re­lief op­er­a­tions, meet­ing donors and chart­ing out ac­tion plans, he has been work­ing al­most 14 hours daily for the past few days. In what has been an ex­traor­di­nar­ily chal­leng­ing sit­u­a­tion, his lead­er­ship, cri­sis man­age­ment skills and pos­i­tive ap­proach have won the hearts of the peo­ple of Ker­ala. In an in­ter­view with JEEMON JA­COB, the CM talks of re­build­ing his state from the ground up.

Q: The state is fac­ing its worst cri­sis in a cen­tury. What is your strat­egy to deal with it?

It is in­deed one of the worst mo­ments in our his­tory. Still, the first phase of the disas­ter is over, though res­cue and re­lief op­er­a­tions are still on. The sit­u­a­tion is such that our losses are even be­yond pro­jec­tion right now. Ear­lier, we es­ti­mated dam­ages at Rs 30,000 crore. But de­tailed re­ports in­di­cate more losses in many sec­tors. It’s the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the gov­ern­ment and the peo­ple of Ker­ala to find so­lu­tions. We have al­ready proved that if we unite for a cause, we can pre­vail over any disas­ter. We have charted out a plan to re­build the state within a min­i­mum time. But we need mas­sive funds, so our fore­most chal­lenge is rais­ing them in a short span. The peo­ple of Ker­ala have al­ready re­sponded pos­i­tively, do­nat­ing a month’s salary. I my­self was in­spired by their sac­ri­fices. Even chil­dren have do­nated their small sav­ings to the chief min­is­ter’s re­lief fund.

Q: What kind of lead­er­ship were you look­ing to pro­vide dur­ing the cri­sis?

When disas­ter strikes, our prime ob­jec­tive is to save the max­i­mum num­ber of peo­ple. As the per­son head­ing the gov­ern­ment, my duty is to pro­vide all sup­port to the flood-af­fected. And I couldn’t have done it without the peo­ple, the cen­tral forces, our fish­er­men... every­one has worked self­lessly. The prime min­is­ter and Union home min­is­ter vis­ited the state and of­fered all help. I am grate­ful to them for their timely help and sup­port.

Q: The state econ­omy is in ruins. How will it af­fect the gov­ern­ment’s devel­op­ment plans?

Well, the im­pact of the tragedy will al­ways haunt us, our econ­omy and ad­versely af­fect fu­ture plans. But we have to build al­ter­na­tives and re­build our state at the ear­li­est. The res­cue phase is over, the re­lief phase has be­gun. The gov­ern­ment has drawn up plans to re­ha­bil­i­tate and re­build the af­fected ar­eas and will try to do so at the ear­li­est. Thou­sands of youths have joined the gov­ern­ment in this process. Right now, mega clean­ing op­er­a­tions are go­ing on in Kut­tanad with more than 60,000 vol­un­teers join­ing the op­er­a­tions.

Q: What prompted you to is­sue the Salary Chal­lenge for re­build­ing Ker­ala?

I trust our peo­ple and their abil­ity to sup­port a good cause. We need huge funds and our re­sources are lim­ited. When I de­cided to make an ap­peal to the peo­ple of Ker­ala to do­nate a month’s salary, many were doubt­ful about the re­sponse. But I was con­fi­dent. Gov­er­nor Jus­tice P. Satha­si­vam was the first to re­spond. Within three days, a large num­ber of peo­ple fol­lowed suit. Now we have re­quested non-res­i­dent Ker­alites to do­nate a month’s salary and busi­ness­men to share their earn­ings. I hope we can raise a good enough cor­pus through their co­op­er­a­tion.

Q: What will be most chal­leng­ing as­pect of re­build­ing Ker­ala?

Re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing the res­i­dents along the river­side and in ar­eas where land­slides hap­pened. The gov­ern­ment will con­duct so­cial au­dits with ex­perts to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing in the fu­ture. We will not al­low con­struc­tion in these ar­eas. We will also con­duct sur­veys in the flooded ar­eas and as­sess the risks.

Q: What do you have to say about the con­tro­versy over UAE aid?

Let’s con­cen­trate on how to move for­ward, not con­tro­ver­sies. Con­tro­ver­sies will dis­ap­pear once you have a task and a mis­sion.

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