How will we describe Jaisal K P, a resident of Tanur in Malappuram district?
This man became a 'footstool' for many trapped in the flood pulling them out from the face of death towards life. Jaisal and his friends all of whom are fishermen, rushed to the rescue when they came to know that the floodwaters had engulfed Vengara, located a few kilometres away from Tanur. Jaisal did not think twice on seeing the elderly women and children who were finding it difficult to step into an inflatable plastic boat; he bent down on his knees in the water and became a 'footstool'.
The youth saved even the last person with the acrobatics of a professionally trained soldier. By the time the videos of people stepping on Jaisal's back to get into the boat became viral on social media, he had already rowed his boat to other places from where cries of panic were heard. Jaisal is one among the hundreds of fishermen who saved the lives of thousands trapped in the rain havoc and floods. We saw many anonymous persons like him in the past few days. Those angels who were at the helm of the rescue operations at the sites of the mishap, disappeared from the sight even before they were recognised.
It was when the controversies related to the deployment of the central force to save Kerala from the floods were rife, that these fishermen arrived uninvited with their own boats defying the waves of the overflowing Pamba and Periyar and becoming the saviours of lives who were at the brink of death. As characterised by many, they became Kerala's own army. As per the official data, nearly 9 lakh people have been rescued to safe havens in the last five days. A major portion of this became possible with the efforts of these fishermen. Had it not been for the willpower and sincerity of these people who make their living by braving the roaring sea waves, we would not have been able to check the catastrophe in this manner. It might also be the reason why Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan highlighted their presence in the rescue operations the other day.
A reward has been declared for such laudable service. It is notable that in addition to the official machinery, it was not only the fishermen, but the entire Kerala that became part of the rescue mission. With voluntary organizations, clubs, students, health workers and social media groups all lined up for the massive operation, a tragedy that would have strayed to become a catastrophe tragedy, was checked within minimum time. The unprecedented vigilance displayed by the cyberspace deserves special mention. It was through social media intervention that isolated individuals could be discovered, and relief materials including food delivered to places in need of them. Therefore, a relatively quick rescue operation was put in place by a combination of fishermen's traditional insights and technology acquired through devices like GPS .
The authorities also stood by the people round the clock. The chief minister, also the Chairman of the Disaster Management Authority, himself led the operations. The primary task of giving courage and confidence to those in the front of the calamity, was well fulfilled. In fact the factor that contributed to minimising the death rate, was the speedy opening of relief camps for those trapped in the flood. Currently over 5,000 camps are being run all over the state. And seven and a half lakh people are staying in the camps at the time the flood started receding.
As explained by the chief minister himself, now it is time for rehabilitation. He has promised that water, electricity and food will be ensured for those who have returned to their homes. Special plan has been evolved for cleaning under the supervision of health and local self-government departments. It can reasonably be hoped that expeditious reconstruction can be achieved through this. It is certain that even in the next phase of reconstruction, angels like Jaisal will flock to those places. For, these days of tragedy have brought out the best of Malayalee's unending spectacles of innate humanity before the world. The words of pledge used were "Together, we will survive". If such a sense of unity has been made possible even in these dark times, we have reason to believe that the sparks of hopes have not yet been extinguished. Although fake progagandists and hoarders raised their heads at isolated places, Kerala has been able to outdo them all through this unity.
The time ahead is one of vigilance. It is a common post-flood phenomenon the world over that people will be thrown into other tragedies like epidemics, which cannot be ruled out here either. For that very reason, the coming days are when those in the health sector have to brace themselves for their real service. Although the government has made special schemes for health in the action plan of disaster relief, popular interventions like the one made during the flood days, are called for even in this sector. If we urgently accomplish major tasks like reaching essential medicines to patients and restoring the preventive health drives which were thrown out of gear, we can ovecome this crisis too. And through that, we can proudly declare to the world that here is a people who have survived.