Residents angry with officials for not taking pre-emptive steps before onset of monsoon

While the downpour of the last few days brought cheer to most residents in Madurai, those living in Valayankulam panchayat’s Dalit colony, located off the four-lane highway leading to Aruppukottai, are enraged.

The people are not angry with the monsoon but with officials indifferent to their repeated pleas to construct a storm water drain in the locality. The colony turned into a low-lying area ever since the highway was laid by raising the ground level. The absence of a storm water outlet has resulted in water entering homes in the village.

“We submitted a representation to the Collector during the last monsoon season. Later, we gave two more petitions. But nothing happened. Nobody cares about us. It has been raining here for the last four days and we have been trying every trick in the book to keep the rainwater out of our homes,” lamented 55 year-old-old Dhanam.

Some people have piled sand bags at the entrance, others have built clay mounds and a few have vacated the colony and moved in with relatives. “Since most of the houses are constructed with mud, rainwater around the colony has moistened their basements and made them precarious. Living here has become a nightmare,” he added.

R. Balachandran, an advocate from the locality, said the residents, especially children and the elderly, faced the risk of picking up diseases such as malaria owing to stagnant puddles.

“On the one hand, the government is asking us to keep our surroundings clean and on the other hand we are forced to live in such unhygienic conditions,” he observed wryly.

Another resident, B. Savari, pointed to sagging overhead electricity cables and feared that loose soil could topple the poles. “Our children play in the area. With stagnant water on the ground and electric cables overhead, living here has become risky,” she said.

Valayankulam panchayat president V. Pitchai said the matter had been taken up with officials of the National Highways Authority of India, who have agreed to construct a storm water drain in the next two weeks.

“It is their duty to lay the drain. They could not take up the work so far owing to land acquisition disputes. But now they have agreed to do a survey and start the work,” he says with a note of optimism.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation has sanctioned five more power poles for the village. "I was told that the poles have to be brought from Tirupalai. That work will also begin soon," he pointed out.

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