A year goes by, Ockhi social stigma haunts the victims

Even before wounds of mental trauma of Ockhi victims are healed, the families of the victims are facing yet another mental torture of discrimination from the people, family members and even officials. This social discrimination comes from the Rs 20 lakh financial assistance given as compensation to the victim’s families.  

With financial assistance from the government, the victims feel that the society is now looking at them differently. Not even the victims, but social activists and the Church thinks the same that the victims face the social stigma.

Talking to kadapuram.com, Suralinal from Poonthura in Thrivananthapuram said that those who had once helped her and her children seldom visit her. “Earlier when there was a need in my house, everyone would come and extend their help. But now they say that we have got huge amounts of money and no help is needed,” she said. However, she said the reality was the opposite with the money in treasuries of no use to them when they have huge debts to be cleared.  

The same social stigma was shared by Latha from Vettucad in Thiruvananthapuram. She said that not only the people in her village but even her family behaved differently now to her. “It is the money that has changed everything. What people see is that we have lots of money. But I am really struggling to repay the debts and even feed my children. No one is there to help me now,” she said.  

Latin Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram spokesperson Eugine Pereira, who had earlier envisaged mental trauma care for the Ockhi victims, agreed that the victims were facing social discrimination. “A small division could be seen in the community. After the government’s assistance to the victims, one can see that these people are facing a kind of discrimination,” he said.  

Pointing out that the church was already into providing mental strength to the victims, he said that the Church had been visiting the victims frequently and trying to provide them mental strength. Moreover, he said that they have asked the government to take some initiative in rendering mental trauma care to the people. The government is yet to seriously consider the proposal, he added.  

Meanwhile, social activist Paniyadima John who has been working among the fishermen community, said that the social discrimination was quite relevant among the community. “Though the victims have got compensation, they are yet to come out of the burden of debt. Only a few know the facts that the money that is deposited in their names cannot be used for any purpose. These victims only get the interest of the deposited money and with this money, it is quite hard for these people to pay the dues and also lead a normal life,” he said.  Noting that it was social discrimination, Paniyadima said that the victims should be given proper mental care and strength. “If the situation persists, it would only have adverse impact,’ he said.

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