Kochi: Over the past four months, Kerala chief minster Pinarayi Vijayan had been warning Keralites on a daily basis about the need to stay safe to fight a grim battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
That was before the rains started pounding the state this week, followed by the crash of an Air India Express flight from Dubai to Kozhikode at the Karipur airport on Friday night.
The virus, rains and air crash, combined with an ongoing financial crunch for the state government have together combined to put the state, touted as “God’s own country” in its advertising campaign, under severe stress.
Count the job losses of Keralites in the Gulf countries and the tourism sector being devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and the misery is complete for Kerala.
Kerala had initially been on top of the pandemic, with the state recording zero fresh cases in some days of April, but from July the numbers began spiking and over the past week the daily fresh cases have averaged well over 1,000.
The deaths from the pandemic are still below 100 but given the state’s low ratio of testing, it cannot afford to be complacent in fighting the pandemic. Last week the state government had given more powers to the police to step in and ensure that people did not violate COVID-19 protocols while moving out of their homes.
18 killed in Munnar
The rain fury since last week has been the latest threat for Kerala, with landslides, flooding and rain-related deaths being reported from different parts of the state. On Friday, in a single landslip in Rajamalai in Munnar, a resort town in Idukki district, 18 lives were lost.
There are more warnings of inclement weather from the meteorological department and the government has given red alerts for four districts, Wayanad, Palakkad, Thrissur and Idukki.
Kerala had suffered massive damage in the floods of 2018 and 2019 and is now fearing a third consecutive year of rain and flood damage. Incidentally, the previous natural disasters happened during Onam time, the state’s top cultural festival, and this year too the weather forecasts for the upcoming Onam season are not encouraging.
What makes Kerala’s situation particularly miserable at the moment is that the state government is facing a cash crunch owing to the pandemic-induced economic meltdown.
Also, tens of thousands of Keralites are losing their jobs in the Gulf countries and elsewhere, which will seriously dent the state’s remittance earnings. Kerala has averaged an anuual remittance income of over Rs 1 trillion over the past few years.