South Indian superstar Kamal Haasan on Friday appealed to Prime Minister Narendra modi to visit the flood-ravaged parts in Tamil Nadu and see for himself the sufferings wrought on the people so that the Centre can come out with massive assistance to the state.
Haasan, who has entered politics recently by floating the Makkal Needhi Maiyam (MNM), went on a whistlestop tour of a few hundred kms of Thanjavur and Nagapattinam districts and Vedaranyam town, which bore the brunt of Cyclone Gaja, on Thursday and described the situation there as "pitiable and abysmal".
Cyclone Gaja: Death toll rises to 33; water, food, milk being supplied to people affected in Tamil Nadu
He accused the state government of being lax and not making a proper assessment of the destruction of homes and crops in vast swathes of land in these affected areas.
Haasan questioned the hurry with which Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswamy rushed to Delhi on Thursday and presented a memorandum to Modi seeking relief of Rs.15,000 crore.
"It (rushing to Delhi) was a knee-jerk reaction under criticism from political parties in the state of the state government's inaction," he told IANS in an interview.
The Chief Minister should have done more extensive visits to the affected areas and made a proper assessment instead of doing a half day tour before rushing to Delhi.
The actor said a visit by the prime minister would infuse new hope in the affected people and galvanise the machinery into doing relief work efficiently.
"The cyclone has been a great leveller. It has affected the rich and the poor equally without caste and religious discrimination. They are looking for succour. And the help is slow in coming. Food is being given to the affected only once a day and that too the quality is poor," he said.
The state government gives an appearance of doing some work but it is confined mainly to highways and main roads where accessibility is relatively easy. Power is being restored mainly on the arterial roads, he said.
Haasan said the two districts he visited were a scene of total disaster with cash crops like tamarind, mango, jackfruit, cashew and palm trees laid waste by the cyclone while the state government was talking of only damage to coconut trees. The farmers have to be supported in a big way by the governments to get them back on their feet after the great losses they have suffered, he said.
He said while the local officials claim that about 2,50,000 people have been affected by the cyclone, his own estimate from various sources put the figure of those displaced and homeless at around 4,00,000.
The sea has eroded into the towns in various places and at one place 400 fibre boats have been pushed far into the woods by the tidal waves.
The damage has been huge to the fishermen and they needed urgent help to restore their lives.
He said his concern was also about the fear of epidemics spreading in these places which the government should attend to.
Haasan also said there is some kind of healthy competition among political parties to reach aid to the people. He expressed confidence that they would cut across lines and help the people and government in a difficult time.
He said activists of his own outfit have rushed 60 truck loads of food and other materials worth over Rs.1.2 crore to the needy.
The official death toll in the catastrophe stands at 63.