‘I need everyone’s support to rebuild Kerala’
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.