Madikeri: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited the flood-and-landslide affected areas of Kodagu, especially Madapura and took stock of the measures taken by the Armed Forces in mitigating the sufferings of people. She also visited some relief camps and interacted with flood victims. At a relief camp at Mythri Police Bhavan in Madikeri, she squatted on the floor to speak with children.
At Madikeri, she announced that she will direct all the defence units in Karnataka to donate a total of Rs. 7 crore for Kodagu flood relief and also said that she will release Rs. 1 crore from her MP fund.
The Union Minister arrived at the Mysore Airport last evening in a special Indian Air Force aircraft and this morning, a chopper flew her to Harangi Helipad at 9 am. She immediately left for Madapura by road, cancelling her scheduled visit to Kushalnagar that was flooded due to massive water release from Harangi Dam. After visiting a few areas in Madapura, the Minister headed towards Madikeri.
She saw the extensive damage in Madapura and collected information about rescue work carried out by the Army, Navy and Air Force along with Paramilitary forces.
She interacted with commanders of various regiments who are leading rescue operations and complimented them for minimising the damage to lives by shifting victims who were stuck in remote and inaccessible areas. “You have risked your lives to save people who were caught in nature’s fury and I salute you for that,” she told the Armed Forces.
At the relief centres at Mythri Police Bhavan and Seva Bharati Seva Kendra in Madikeri, the Minister told the flood victims that she had come to Kodagu as a representative of the Union Government and told them that the Armed Forces will stay-put in Kodagu till the rehabilitation process is completed. “I will convey to PM Narendra Modi, Road Transport Minister Nithin Gadkari about the need of speedy restoration measures and will try and get a special package to Kodagu,” she said.
Nirmala Sitharaman, born in Tamil Nadu, who is well-versed in Kannada (she is a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka), spoke to the flood victims and their children in chaste Kannada. She told them that the Union government was committed to rebuild their lives.
The Minister was received at the Harangi Helipad by Mysuru-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha, Somwarpet MLA M.P. Appachu Ranjan, Deputy Commissioner P.I. Sreevidya, Superintendent of Police Suman D. Pennekar and a few Defence officers.
EXCHANGE OF WORDS
When the Defence Minister visited the DC Office to chair a meeting of Armed Forces and government officials, Air Marshal (Retd) K.C. Cariappa and a few other retired officers came to meet the Minister. Air Marshal Cariappa urged the Minister to implement in total the Dr. K. Kasturirangan-led Committee Report that had suggested declaring 1,576 villages (in Karnataka) along the Western Ghats as Ecologically-Sensitive Areas.
Non-implementation of the report has led to the natural disaster in Kodagu, they opined. This plea to implement the report was, however, objected to by Virajpet MLA K.G. Bopaiah who said that if the report was implemented; living in Kodagu would be near to impossible. A minor exchange of words ensued between the retired defence personnel, the MLA and his supporters.
The Minister intervened and said that the retired officers have every right to air their views and as a Defence Minister she was duty-bound to listen to them. Nirmala Sitharaman later chaired a meeting with Kodagu District Minister S.R. Mahesh, District Officials and representatives from the Defence Forces. She is scheduled to arrive in Mysuru today evening and fly to Bengaluru in the IAF aircraft.