At first glance, it is the landscape of the Thiru Vi Ka Nagar constituency that distinguishes it from other constituencies in the city. Scores of slum tenements and clusters of small houses with barely any living room are in abundance as opposed to multi-storied apartment complexes and spacious individual houses.
For the residents of Thiru Vi Ka Nagar constituency which has the highest Scheduled Castes population and lowest income-levels among all the 16 Assembly constituencies of Chennai, the promise of a sustainable livelihood is what matters more than that of infrastructural growth or freebies. As per the 2001 Census, Thiru Vi Ka Nagar had 65,427 persons belonging to Scheduled Castes.
The reserved constituency, which was formed as part of the delimitation exercise, has several slum colonies, including Ekangipuram, Semathamman Colony, Mangalapuram, Wadia Nagar, Brislee Nagar, Arundathi Nagar, Kannikapuram, Ganeshapuram, Venkatesapuram, Kalyanapuram, Pulianthope, Nammalwarpet, S.S. Puram, Conran Smith Nagar and Pattalam.
S. Lokabiraman, a resident of Jamalia Nagar, said previously several parts of Jamalia, Pulianthope and Otteri were known as labour area, as hundreds of people working in the Binny Mills settled on the vacant plots located around the factory.
Though no big names are in the fray this election, the political scene in the area gained momentum with the recent campaign of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Jayalalithaa. She canvassed for her party candidate V.Neelakandan who is contesting against C.Natesan of the Congress party.
The two main contestants during their hectic door-to-door campaign in the slum tenements assure the residents that the freebies announced by their respective parties/fronts would be delivered to them.
Mr. Neelakandan is a granite exporter and has been in politics for over three decades. He had contested from Perambur in 1996 and Egmore in 1989, losing both the times. This time he is confident of winning and relies on the initiatives of his Manithaneya Amma Arakattalai, which had donating funds for construction of temples and churches in slum tenements and set up a free fitness centre in Perambur. “Since these areas come under my constituency, I am sure that the people will not let me down,” he adds.
Contesting the assembly elections for the first time, Mr. Natesan, who is a medial practitioner by profession, is banking on the DMK-led councillors work in the various divisions of Chennai Corporation. His campaign has been mainly centred around slum tenements with the members of the coalition partners in the DMK-led front canvassing for votes.
Measures to address unemployment, the bad living conditions and the brawls are of greater importance to the voters of this constituency than infrastructure development such as relaying of roads, setting up of new schools and parks.
One of the major grievances of the residents of S.S.Puram, which once was a garbage dump yard, is the unemployment among the literate youth. J.Jayapradha, who lives in a cluster house in S.S. Puram, says: “Despite schemes under which jobs are offered to those belonging to Scheduled Castes and participating in job fairs, my three sons, all of whom have completed their graduation, remain unemployed. With rising prices, it has become difficult to feed five mouths with the Rs.5000 my husband earns as a driver. Jobs are what we want, not the freebies.”
While the residents of S.S.Puram are happy that they got free colour television sets and gas stoves with LPG connection, they are sore at not yet being covered under the State government’s health insurance scheme.
Anthonyamma, an 82-year-old woman, rues that in spite of writing many times to the authorities, no assistance for healthcare or the old age pension is forthcoming.
Though the residents say that things have improved over the years with regard to the education facilities, road infrastructure and street lighting, unhygienic living conditions, sewage overflow and poor quality of piped water supply have been the cause of health problems for the residents of several areas, including Ekangipuram, Pulianthope, S.S. Puram and Arundathi Nagar.
Notable initiatives of the Chennai Corporation in the constituency include the ongoing project to renovate the Perambur Slaughter House, disbursement of funds for converting asbestos-sheet roofs to concrete in various slum colonies and construction of stormwater drain.
The total electorate of the constituency as per the final rolls published on January 10, 2011, is 1,70,528. There are 84,624 men, 85,901 women and three others. There are 174 polling booths in the constituency.
The Thiru Vi Ka Nagar constituency consists of Perambur South (Division 37), Thiru Vi Ka Nagar (38), Wadia Nagar (39), Dr.Sathyavanimuthu Nagar (40), Pulianthope (41), Maraimalai Adigal Nagar North (59), Maraimalai Adigal Nagar South (60), Anjugam Ammaiyar Nagar (97), Kosapet (98) and Pattalam (99).
What They Say
V. Neelakandan, AIADMK candidate. (Nica ID: 123047925)
I will take steps to stop the renovation of the Perambur Slaughter House as Chennai Corporation wants to hand over the facility to a private player. This will destroy the livelihood of hundreds of people of the constituency dependent on the slaughter house. I am for renovation of the slaughter house but on a cooperative society format which will benefit the stakeholders. I will revamp the sewage and drinking water network and build more schools apart from ensuring that the benefits of welfare schemes reach all the beneficiaries.
C. Natesan, Congress candidate, (Nica id: 123047924)
The main issues for the residents are sanitation and health. I will take measures to curb the mosquito menace. With several residential colonies having come up along the water bodies and burial grounds, the residents live in poor sanitary conditions, for which steps will be taken to provide safe drinking water and prevent sewage overflow. I will donate a free ambulance for the constituency and employ educated youth residing in all the divisions of the constituency to take stock of the works that needs to be taken up.