Criminal neglect of people’s suffering continues
Some residents of Chennai who managed to survive with the help of neighbours, friends and strangers who provided emergency assistance, have slowly started piecing their lives together again. But there are hundreds of thousands more who are still waiting to be rehabilitated, who are waiting for power to be restored, who are waiting for garbage to be cleared. Most of them continue to suffer because of the absence of any government intervention in restoring essential services.
In response to a Public Interest Litigation filed by the public accusing the government of criminal neglect, the Madras High Court had asked the government to submit an action plan by 11th December. In actual fact, there has been no report of any such response. People are experiencing the absence of any coordinated and effective plan to carry out the clean-up and provision of basic infrastructure amenities. They have no knowledge of what their “representatives” are doing while they are suffering from the lack of even the most basic essentials.
People have been left to fend for themselves. For example, in one of the areas which was fully flooded, children are being bitten by mosquitoes as the waters have receded. The parents have been asking for power supply, but only to be told each time that they should come later! Some of them have been going to the electricity board offices a dozen times a day, but they are no closer to getting even a few hours of power.
Many people do not have food or water or even clothes to wear. They have had to depend on help from strangers who have given them some clothes and food just enough for survival. People have reported from several areas that the one meal a day they received was only thanks to civilians and voluntary organisations/groups who had taken it upon themselves to reach aid to the flood hit area.
The government has not cared to equip the thousands of sanitation workers who have come from various parts of the state to assist the city clear garbage. Sanitation workers, brought in from various parts of Tamil Nadu have not been provided amenities and infrastructure so they can carry out relief work. They have been housed in temporary shelters but the lack of water and toilets has forced the workers to shell out as much as Rs 25 per day to wash themselves. Workers were falling sick and were themselves seeking treatment.
The people of Chennai are seething with anger. They have organised flash road roko that has halted traffic on the busy roads, while they have squatted on the road, holding hands and forming a chain. Visiting politicians have been heckled and forced to leave neighbourhoods.
The people are coming to the realisation that those who rule simply use them. They realise that their taxes are not paying for services to be provided to the public but to make politicians richer. A group of women from one of the flood hit areas, had this to say:
"Politicians call us poor people but they live off us. A local politician who used to ride a bicycle has now built a ten-storey house. Where did he get that money from? He wouldn't even know how to sign his own name. He now drives a car worth Rs 10 lakh. All of this is our money. You're taking all sorts of taxes from us. We have not got anything despite paying all these. No one from government has come to see us. Only the public - not government officials or politicians - only some stranger who didn't even know Tamil gave me some old clothes to wear. This sari I'm wearing today is not mine - someone gave me this old sari and saved my honour. Since the day the flood came from Chembarambakkam, no one came and no politician should come here either. Let any party come to us asking for votes. We will beat them with our slippers and chase them away."
"Strangers came and gave us one meal a day. The local political representatives - where are they? What have they done for us?"
To top it all, the school education department has announced that exams would be held from January 11 for all classes! Thousands of children have not recovered their books from the floods and unable to attend school. Thousands of adults and children are still deeply disturbed and need medical attention. However, despite these conditions and the objections of the Tamil Nadu Students Parents Welfare Association, the education department has decided to announce the examinations!
The continued misery of the vast majority of people long after the flood waters have receded only reflect the bankruptcy of the government and the state. A state and a government which fails to protect the security and provide for the well-being of the people has no right to exist. Measured by this, the Indian state and the government has no moral right to continue. People cannot rely on them to fulfil their responsibilities. The only course left for the people is to organise themselves in their mohallas and workplaces to fight for their rights and for the longer term vision of taking political power in their own hands. Many youth and student groups have begun to do this. Relying on our own united strength and organisations is the only way to build the alternative.