Thiruvananthapuram: Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi on Thursday expressed condolences to the bereaved families of those killed in cyclone Ockhi and suggested a separate ministry for fishermen at the Centre to look into their interests.
Addressing a public gathering at Thiruvananthapuram's Poonthura Church, the Congress chief said, "I would have liked to come here much earlier but I had a programme, which was pre-fixed in Gujarat that I could not cancel because of the Assembly elections there. So I apologise that I took a couple of days more to come here. But even though I was not here physically, in spirit I was here with you. I have come here to pay my respect to the people who have passed away, to offer my condolences to their families and to try and help if we can bring the missing people back. The farmers have a ministry that looks after them and I think it is time that we create a ministry for the fishermen that looks after their interest and makes sure that they are protected in the future".
He added that today, the condition of fishermen is very much similar to that of farmers as they both are going through very difficult times.
"For many of the families, who are here today, I understand that we cannot replace what you have lost but we will try and make your life as comfortable as possible in the future. Some of you have lost your fathers, brothers, sons and we cannot replace that because that has not value. But whatever help we can give you, we will try to do that," Rahul asserted.
He further said that it is important that when a tragedy like this happens, then all should learn from that tragedy whether it is the government of the state or the national government.
"Everybody must learn and try to improve the situation for the future. We have to build a better system of warning our people and fishermen before they go out into the sea," he added.
Meanwhile, the Kerala Cabinet members have contributed their one month's salaries to the Ockhi Cyclone Relief Fund.
Earlier, the state government had set up a special relief fund with contributions from the public to initiate relief and rehabilitation measures for families affected by cyclone Ockhi.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had also called upon all political parties, institutions and the public to donate generously to the special fund.
The death toll due to the cyclone, which hit the Kerala coast, mounted to 52 on Tuesday.
The severe cyclone has left a trail of destruction in India, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
In India, the cyclone struck the coasts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra and Gujarat killing more than 64 people and displacing over hundreds.