Cyclone Michaung | Anger swells against political parties for inadequate response during floods in Chennai

Chennai Mayor R. Priya, Egmore MLA I. Paranthamen, Velachery MLA J.M.H. Aassan Maulaana and others have faced public backlash for the flooding, as well as the delay in restoration of power and essential services

December 09, 2023 04:19 pm | Updated 07:13 pm IST - CHENNAI

Flood water continued to stagnate on Mahatham Gandhi Street, Chinna Sekkadu in North Chennai on Friday, December 8, 2023, days after the passage of Cyclone Michaung brought heavy rains to the city

Flood water continued to stagnate on Mahatham Gandhi Street, Chinna Sekkadu in North Chennai on Friday, December 8, 2023, days after the passage of Cyclone Michaung brought heavy rains to the city | Photo Credit: JOTHI RAMALINGAM B

The post-cyclone situation in Chennai seems to be becoming too hot for the ruling party and its ally, the Congress, to handle, if the angry backlash of members of the public in parts of the city are any indication. It is no better for other political parties.  

Over the past couple of days, among those at the receiving end were R. Priya, Chennai Mayor; I. Paranthamen, DMK’s Egmore MLA, and J.M.H. Aassan Maulaana of the Congress, Velachery MLA. When Udhayanidhi Stalin, Youth Welfare and Sports Development Minister, visited Velachery a few days ago along with his Ministerial colleagues, a woman resident expressed her anguish forcefully. There is a perception that the degree of public anger is higher this time than in the past.  

Explaining the development, a Kilpauk resident says that the city residents were surprised, if not stunned, by the enormity of the problem of flooding. This has arisen due to the gap between reality and the expectations generated by repeated statements of representatives of the State government regarding the status of a ₹4,000-crore storm-water drain project.  

C. Murugaiyan, secretary of the federation of residents’ associations in 28 wards of the Tambaram Municipal Corporation, says that even though the people are aware that not everything can be restored quickly after such a storm, they would expect speedy resumption of services such as power and milk supply and potable water distribution. “When there is a delay, they naturally feel agitated,” he points out.   

Conceding that the public anger is more palpable now than in 2015, a member of the ruling party in Ice House, however, blames the AIADMK for instigating the affected people, despite the “fair distribution” of relief material “in sufficient quantities” at every place.  

Dismissing the charge against his party, Kovai Sathyan, AIADMK’s spokesperson, says the accusation only shows that the ruling party has nothing else to say. “We do not follow where they [the ruling party] are going or not going. In fact, we are not even aware of their schedule.” He adds that “conflicting” statements on the execution of the storm-water drain project created confusion among the public.  

Giving an elaborate account of how the present flood has been better managed than in 2015 or 2005, P. K. Sekar Babu, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Minister and Harbour MLA, asserts that eight years ago expression of the public unrest was more severe. “This time, even in places where demonstrations have taken place, Ministers interact with people concerned and take care of their requirements.”  

P. Viswanathan, an activist of Chitlapakkam, on the southern outskirts of Chennai, has a different tale to narrate. The response of local councillors in a few wards of Tambaram (ward nos. 34, 43 & 44) was “prompt and positive” to the issues raised by residents of the areas concerned. “If elected representatives and the people develop a better rapport during normal times, things would be better in times of crisis,” he says. 

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