The past two weeks in Kerala have seen an outpouring of relief supplies and coordination of rescue operations, the magnitude of which has never been witnessed in the state before. Of course, the floods and landslides, that pummelled thousands of houses and left close to 200 dead since August 9, have been the worst of its kind in the state’s history.
While private individuals, organisations, trade bodies and NGOs did an exemplary job of channelling supplies in the right direction, the work of the district administrations in setting up control rooms and assisting central teams has been praiseworthy. Two women district collectors, in particular, stand out for the manner in which they led the administration’s efforts. The roles of TV Anupama, district collector in-charge of Thrissur, and K Vasuki, of Thiruvananthapuram, in having a people-to-people connect during these trying times, is being praised on social media.
Anupama, who earlier held the charge of Alappuzha district, has a loyal fan base among the local population for her brave decisions taken against powerful politicians and lobbying groups. Her fact-finding report on the alleged encroachment of paddy land by former transport minister Thomas Chandy, in particular, had paved the way for the High Court to order police to register a case against him.
Anupama, the fourth-rank holder in the civil services examination in 2010, took charge as the collector in Thrissur in June this year and her first major test has been the floods that affected parts such as Mala, Chalakudy, Kodungallur and Annamanada. Apart from regularly posting updates through the official Facebook accounts and coordinating the supply of essential materials to relief camps, Anupama’s tiff with the Bar Association over material storage made big news. It was reported that the Bar Association did not allow the use of its premises inside the civil station despite orders from the district administration. So, Anupama, daring as she is known to be, went ahead with orders to break the locks of the two rooms so that essential supplies can be stored. The collector’s move was praised by many on social media.
Though the southern-most district of Thiruvananthapuram was not as badly-affected as Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Idukki and Wayanad, K Vasuki’s role in the collection and disbursal of relief supplies was endearing to many. Under her watch, the district administration was able to collect 54 truck-loads of material in two days, sending it to parts of the district and beyond.
At a relief camp, using a microphone, she addressed all those who signed up as volunteers, assuring them that they were doing something great.
“Do you know what you are doing? You are making history. You are showing the world what Malayalis are capable of. The logistics and the amount of relief material being collected is not just making national news, but international news. Just like people fought for freedom, all of you have fought like the army. It’s an amazing job that you have done. Around 400 volunteers signed up for loading and unloading at the airport. The labour cost for the government, if we were to calculate, would run into crores,” she said, to a round of applause.