Kerala all set for monsoon but something is amiss
Dark clouds have started hovering over the horizon of Kerala, God’s Own Country, a sign of the impending monsoon in the season’s first stopover in the country. The spectre, amid the raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, appears ominous in light of last two monsoons when torrential rains left behind a trail of death and destruction in the coastal state.
Pre-monsoon rains have lashed many areas, indicating a downpour over the next couple of days.
The south-west monsoon, often called the season of plenty, is likely to keep its annual date with the state on June 1.
Initially, the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) authorities had said the onset would be delayed by four to five days, but on Thursday it became abundantly clear that the four-month season’s arrival is bang on time. Clouds will start a northward journey after drenching Kerala.
Monsoon is a symbol of prosperity, as hope springs eternal for a bumper harvest, much to the delight of farmers, policymakers and economists alike. But this year, Covid-19, touted as a once-in-a-century life-altering event, has been a dampener.
To be sure, the ‘monsoon magic’, as the state tourism markets the season, is absent this time due to the viral outbreak. Only jaded police personnel are standing guard on empty beaches and the thriving Ayurveda and wellness centres, which make a killing during this tourist high season, are busy counting their losses. While houseboats in the backwaters have been converted into makeshift Covid-19 quarantine centres.
Usually, itinerant travellers and shutterbugs throng the state during monsoon, and some even travel following the northerly-moving clouds. But, the pandemic has kept such seasonal adventures at bay, as travellers are running for cover from the highly-contagious pathogen.
Fear is the key this monsoon in Kerala.
“I had renovated my Ayurveda resort four months ago at an estimated cost of over Rs one crore. I was eyeing a good footfall of high-end foreign tourists. But this tourist season is over even before it started. The aftershocks will be felt next year as well, as the hospitality sector has been a frontline sector that has been roiled by the pandemic,” said PK Prakash, a resort owner in Vizinjam.
State tourism minister Kadakampally Surendran echoed Prakash, as the viral outbreak has crippled the thriving sector. “It’ll take long to recover,” he said.
Many schools and other shelters, which usually house flood-affected people during monsoon, are either occupied by migrant workers or Covid-19 patients.
Kerala was devastated by floods in 2018 when over 400 people had died and at least 10 lakh were affected. Last year, too, the floods had claimed 110 lives. The ravages of the floods in two consecutive years are still visible in several places in Idukki and Wayanad.
Monsoon-related epidemic such as dengue, leptospirosis, chicken guniya and other maladies are an annual feature.
“We’ve asked all medical units to report mass cases of pneumonia and other respiratory tract-related ailments as preventive measures to diseases that occur during monsoon every year,” said state health minister KK Shailaja.
To make matters worse, the IMD authorities have predicted heavy rains for the third year in a row, which have added to the state government’s woes amid the viral outbreak.