December 20, 2015

Tamil Nadu Floods are a National Disaster

M Girija

THE heaviest rainfall never before in the history of Tamil Nadu caused massive flooding in many parts of the state driving thousands of people from their homes, shutting the factories, IT hubs and paralysing the airport in the capital city, Chennai.   The micro and small industries sector have also been worst affected. More than 1200 micro and small industries located in the Ambattur industrial hub and its surroundings – Pattaraivakkam, Mugapper, Korattur, Villivakkam – have been severely affected.  Machineries, electronic equipments, raw materials, vehicles have been heavily damaged and this has crippled production.  Because of the flooding water entering the factories, the industries have incurred a loss to the tune of more than Rs 2000 crores.  All these, in turn have affected the livelihood of lakhs of workers. 

The flash floods by the incessant rains and also the sudden release of water from the Chembarambakkam lake wreaked havoc on Chennai, affecting the lives of people and damaging their properties.  Media reports that even though the PWD officials had warned about heavy flow into the lake and its consequences, the government machinery has not acted upon it. It is also being reported that the callous attitude of the state government machinery in taking decision to release the surplus water from the reservoirs is the root cause of the problem.  The poor management of water release from Chembarambakkam lake which led to the worst deluge ever in Chennai drew wide criticism.  The TN state committee of CPI(M) has demanded a judicial probe into the negligence on the part of the state government in releasing the surplus water.  

For the first time, eight battalions consisting of 1715 personnel from National Disaster Response Force were deployed for the rescue work in the flood affected districts, which shows the magnitude of the disaster.  Even as per the official statistics, around 18 lakhs of people have lost their houses and have moved to the camps arranged by the government.  The state government put the death toll at 347 due to floods in the state since October 1.  But the actual number will be much more than this.  On coming to know about the pitiable plight of people in the flood affected areas, help started pouring in.  The cadres of CPI(M) jumped into action immediately, both in rescuing as well as rendering relief work.  The assistance is pouring in the form of both cash and kind from the district committees of the Party and the value of relief materials received exceeds Rs 1 crore.  The state committees of West Bengal, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh have also sent funds.  The contribution of Rs 2.06 crores from Kerala is worth mentioning.

The class and mass organisations are also in full swing in rendering relief work.  The state, district and area committees of CITU affiliated unions and federations like electricity employees, road transport employees, AIDWA, DYFI and SFI are collecting relief materials from their respective places and sending them to the affected areas.  Middle class organisations – AIIEA, BEFI, BSNLEU, TNGEA are also effectively rendering the relief work.  From insurance sector, so far relief work to the tune of Rs 27 lakh has been rendered in South Chennai, North Chennai, Cuddalore, Kanchipuram, Thiruvallur, and Tuticorin.

Now, though the flooded water has receded, still people in many affected areas continue to face problems posed by stagnation of sewage, garbage and sludge outside their homes.   In the drive for cleaning the affected areas also, our cadres are in the forefront.  This work was initially started by the cadres of DYFI and AIDWA.  On December 13, the general secretary of CPI(M) Sitaram Yechury visited the flood affected areas in Chennai and distributed relief materials.  While speaking to the press, Yechury charged that no worthy central government assistance had reached Tamil Nadu.  He pointed out that most of the relief work that has been offered is voluntary and not by the central or state governments.  He said, "Only volunteers of parties like us are doing the relief work.  I will go back to parliament  and again raise the issue there.  The central government should be pro-active and provide more funds".  He reiterated that it was not a disaster confined to Chennai or Tamil Nadu, but a disaster concerning the whole of India. 

The members of AIIEA around 200, including 13 women, from all the 8 divisions in the state also participated in the cleaning drive, which was inaugurated by Yechury. U Vasuki, Central Committee member of CPI(M) also joined the insurance comrades in the cleaning drive. On December 14, when the insurance employees were in the cleaning drive at MGR Nagar, state secretary of CPI(M), G Ramakrishnan visited the area and appreciated the volunteers.   The role that is being played by the cadres of the Party, class and mass organisations in the cleaning drive is praise worthy.  This form of work undertaken by us has created compulsion on the administration to mobilise their sanitary setup from other districts also. 

Apart from our Party, class and mass organisations, several NGOs and individuals are also actively involved in the relief work.  The manner in which the state government handled the situation during the hardship has earned bad name for the party in power.  The chief minister visited her RK Puram constituency only and just before the visit of prime minister, she had a view of the flood affected areas.  All these have created negative impression about the chief minister and the ruling party in the minds of the people.   It is also to be noted that the outfits of RSS and the BJP are not seen in many areas.  Only in the later days, some relief work was undertaken by these outfits, that too in few areas. In Chennai, Muslim organisations are in full swing in the relief activity under the banner of their organisations.  The manner in which they stood with the victims during their hardship, many posts have gone viral in social media expressing happiness over the communal harmony prevailing in the Chennai city.  A Muslim by name Younus rescued a pregnant lady and admitted her safely in the hospital and on the arrival of the new baby, that Hindu family named the child with his name.  A person (Hindu) who had earlier refused to rent his house to families of Muslim community, now posted in social media regretting the same.  All these incidents have proved that still the people are upholding the values of secularism, which gives us confidence.