India: Ramifications of cyclone in Tamil Nadu!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Cyclone that struck Tamil nadu has left behind burning problems especially for the people of Chennai. Even after 5 days, Chennai has not yet returned to normalcy but people have acquired more problems. Residents of Chennai and its neighbouring districts have been hit by a double whammy in the wake of large-scale destruction wrought by cyclone Vardah.
Occurring at a time the country is still dealing with the demonetization effects, the cyclone has bruised the government’s push for cashless economy. “The act of god has completely derailed the push for cashless economy,” said a private sector employee in Mylapore, adding that the impact of natural calamities should be factored in while drawing any policy that will affect people directly. However, a college student hopes this is just a temporary setback. “Natural disaster is something that no government can anticipate.” The power outages also added to disrupted mobile telephony and internet services, hitting the IT and ITES sectors adversely.
Notwithstanding the deadly cyclone ransacking Chennai derailing the normal life in the city and Tamil nadu followed by sudden sad demise of CM Jayalalithaa, herself a former celluloid entertainer, the BCCI and Tamil Nadu cricket board were determined to conduct the fifth test cricket in Chennai and have indeed ‘performed” the match. In fact, the BCCI could have easily cancelled the match since India has already won the match series 3-0 and cancelling it would not have caused any problem for India. But neither India nor England could forego the batting for huge money and centuries for batboys for excessive advertisement money both in white and black and national awards.
For cricketers natural calamity or sudden death of the most popular Tamil Leader does not make any difference and they would go ahead with their money making agenda because federal and regional government support them with national awards.
Even as cricketers shared 50s and 100s and more, Chennaities continued to suffer without electricity, with traffic problems due to failed trees on roads, etc. Cricket matches are watched in stadiums by well to do people whose agents also carry Indian flags to display when cameras focus on them.
Cricketers know Indian government and state governments are being controlled by corporate lords who sponsor the matches and pay extra money to bowlers for definite 100s and above to select fake batboys like Karun Nair. They also know these corporate lords and politicians would support cricket no matter what cricketers do for the common people.
Shame to BCI and Tamil Nadu cricket board for not recognizing the problems faced by people of Chennai and other affected districts in the state!
Shame to Congress led UPA government for making, a Bharatratna – an honor that should be given to exclusive person, a great national hero among 120 million people but not a fake entertainer and cricketer Sachin who got 100s in bating by mutual fixings with other teams and mafia fixings, like what is happening today between India and England in Chennai
Indeed, Indian government has insulted the prestigious Bharatratna award by offering it to a match fixer who had to wait at the crease for nearly 2 years for his one last 100 before retirement. Finally Bangladesh too pit at India that tried all tricks to get 100 for its favorite cricketer Sachin. Possibly Indian president Pranab Mukherjee, Bengali, made repeated appeal to Bangladesh PM to let Sachin get his last 100 so that he and UPA government could bestow the top civilian award of land. Indian government is very good at pressure tactics to get what it wants done. It got many things for Sachin , for example from Austrian government Australia’s Order award meant for their own best exclusive and honest person,
Despite the state government’s best efforts, parts of the city were still trying struggling with power outages and poor mobile and internet connectivity. People in the three affected districts of Chennai, Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram were left in a lurch with shops, hotels, restaurants and petrol pumps not accepting payments through cards or other digital means due to “network failures”. Chennai has more than 3,200 ATMs, with the majority not working or unable to dispense smaller denominations that its residents have been clamoring for. Most of the ATMs were dysfunctional causing greater hardship to those hard pressed for cash and need of basic amenities.
It’s a Catch-22 for many residents here: Either they find an ATM that has power but no cash, or you come across one that’s in total darkness.“Networks are down so our cards are also useless,” complains Preeti Soundararajan, a 34-year-old techie with TCS. “There’s no electricity or water at home and now we can’t even afford to buy food or supplies because none of us has change.”
According to RBI data, Tamil Nadu has 23,728 ATMs, mainly concentrated in its cities.
Communication lines were also severely disrupted. BSNL landlines were operating at some places but its network was disrupted in many areas. “Due to the severe cyclone at Chennai coast yesterday, one of our international undersea cables has been damaged and Internet traffic has been partially impacted. As a result, customers in some locations may be experiencing slow internet/data speeds,” an Airtel spokesperson said. “All telecom companies are told to restore their full network as quickly as possible and its being monitored,” the State Disaster Management Agency said in a tweet.
The aftermath of cyclone Vardah has not just been a test of state and central machinery in dealing with natural disasters, but has also exposed the chinks in India’s tech-driven utilities.
With the storm disrupting electrical lines, internet services and mobile telephony in Tamil Nadu districts, the breakdown added to the sufferings of thousands of people already reeling under the impact of demonetization of high-value currency.
Electricity and water problems have affected common people. The cyclone tore down banners, electricity poles, power and television cables, advertisement hoardings and uprooted about 4,000 trees in Chennai, leaving a trail of destruction. In conjunction with the demonetization drive launched m by the Modi government the cyclone literally driven out even the minimum heath people of affected parts of Tamil Nadu.
Chennai is the worst-hit zone by the cyclone. The cyclone hit production at North Chennai Thermal Power Station’s (NCTPS) 600MW Unit 1, said Power System Operation Corporation Ltd (POSOCO) on Tuesday. Two other units of NCTPS (one 600 MW and another 210 MW) had gone out of operation on Monday. It is still unclear when these units will resume production.
The two units of 220 MW units at Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) also stopped operations due to tripping of the power evacuation lines. Officials said power restoration to Chennai, Kanchipuram, and Tiruvallur districts will take at least two days. “There was no power at home and no milk. So we decided to go to a hotel and have brunch. However the hotel said they are not accepting card payments as the swipe machine was not working. We had to come back to have a home-cooked meal,” a public sector employee said. “The central government must think of natural calamities when taking major decisions that have large impact on people like demonetization. There is neither real money nor plastic money with us,” P Kumar, a private sector employee said.
Many parts of Chennai resembled a war-zone with uprooted trees, hoardings, electricity poles, snapped power and television cables. Environmentalists estimate that some 4000 trees were uprooted by the cyclone. “The tee that fell outside my complex and smashed into the electric transformer is over 60 years old. I always thought that it would outlive all of us, but it has gone before us,” said 56-year-old resident of Adyar. Environmentalists like Nityanand Jayaraman expressed sadness that Chennai’s green cover was blown away and it might take many many years to replenish it.
With the storm disrupting electrical lines, internet services and mobile telephony in Tamil Nadu districts, the breakdown added to the sufferings of thousands of people already reeling under the impact of demonetization of high-value currency. Various government departments have taken up restoration works on war footing, Panneerselvam said. The theosophical society and its surroundings in and around Beasant Nagar were like a forest in the morning, and even walking across was a challenge, said a tax consultant. “It is as if we are in the midst of a forest,” said, a Chennai-based businessman.
The municipal corporation and NDRF teams along with locals helped clear roadways by using battery-operated cutters to clear fallen trees. But a resilient Chennai, by now used to its December Date with Disaster – last year it was floods and now a cyclone – began repairing itself with help from the NDRF and SDRF teams deployed all over to clear the roads and byroads.
Municipal corporation workers too got into the act from early morning, which witnessed bright sunshine briefly and stayed cloudy for better part of the day, only to have the bright sun greeting Tamil Nadu by evening. Rain predicted by Met office failed to materialize, providing much respite to the relief and rescue teams working all across the affected areas. In some areas, where municipal corporation workers could not reach, the residents themselves got into the act, just like they did during the Chennai floods of last year. By evening, many of the main roads were de-clogged and traffic began to roll by almost smoothly, barring in some areas that witnessed water logging.
Chief Minister O Pannerselvam said the TNEB has deployed personnel to repair damaged power lines, saying the operation would take a couple of days. “The Tamil Nadu Electricity Board has deployed 4,000 personnel to set right power lines damaged due to high speed winds that blew at a speed of 130 kmph when the cyclone Vardah crossed coast near Chennai Port,” Panneerselvam said in a statement. The government allocated Rs two crore to the transport department to renovate damaged buses and bus terminuses. As several trees at the famous Anna Zoological Park also were uprooted, the government allocated Rs 2.50 crore to the Forest department to take up restoration works at Zoo and those parks that were affected. “I have issued orders to all departments to work cohesively and complete the task soon,” he said.
Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam allocated Rs 500 crore for rehabilitation works in regions ravaged by Cyclone Vardah in the state. Of the Rs 500 crore, Rs 350 crore would be allocated to Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (TANGEDCO), Rs 75 crore to Chennai Corporation, Rs 25 crore to Highways department while Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur district administration would each get Rs 10 crore, Panneerselvam said. Indian Home minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the relief operations on Tuesday with senior officials from disaster management agencies and ministry of home affairs.
Earlier, he chaired a review meeting at the Secretariat in which senior ministers, chief secretary, advisors to government, DGP and department secretaries, participated. “Based on discussions at the meeting, I have issued orders to allocate Rs 500 crore to provide relief assistance to people and to take up infrastructure works in the affected areas,” he said. Among others, he said Rs 10 crore would be given as financial assistance to fishermen community, Rs seven crore to public work department, Rs three crore to health department, Rs 50 lakh to repair dairy farms that were affected and Rs five crore to police department to restore traffic signals.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Panneerselvam sought Rs 1,000 crore as immediate assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund to take up relief and rehabilitation works. He also requested Modi to depute a team to study the damage caused by Vardah. Federal government, on repeated requests from the TN government and political leaders and MPs from TN, allocated and released Rs 500 crores as emergency fund to deal with the emergency situation in Tamil nadu. Earlier, Panneerselvam inspected several affected areas including Aringnar Anna Zoological park at Vandalur in Kancheepuram district. He also disbursed Rs 13.94 lakh as financial assistance to 43 people at Mammallapuram Town Panchayat, a release said. The issue also figured in the Lok Sabha, with former finance minister P Chidambaram demanding that the Centre provide financial aid to the state.
For thousands already reeling under the November 8 demonetization shocker, the storm has piled on the misery by disrupting power lines, internet and mobile services in Chennai, Kancheepuram and Thiruvalluvar districts. “We could deal with the (last December’s) floods. Everyone banded together and helped each other out. But now no one has any money to help or even buy food or supplies for themselves,” says Stephen S, an auto-driver.
The first major natural disaster in Tamil Nadu after the demonetization drive has exposed the chinks in technology-driven payment modes. Just when people were slowly getting used to making payments through debit and credit cards and a host of digital payment modes like Paytm and the like, they woke up to rude shock on Tuesday with shops, restaurants and petrol pumps declining plastic money as internet services and mobile telephony remained knocked out.
The government’s push for a cashless economy may be good in theory and intent, but on the ground the situation was different. “It is just something that no government can think of and provide for,” countered college student S Vikram, convinced that it was a temporary setback and things would return to normal in couple of days.
In coastal Chennai’s Nochi Kuppam, when the first rumblings of Vardah were heard, fisherman Logesh S only thought of his boats. “All of us here were praying that our boats do not get destroyed,” says the wiry 42-year-old, picking through the remains of the corrugated iron shack that was once his home. “This is something we can rebuild from, though it will cost a lot,” he says, gesturing towards a group of men sorting through the wreckage. “But earning the money to do so, especially now, is difficult.”
It’s been a common complaint since Vardah left a trail of destruction and broken power lines in Chennai and its surrounding districts, killing 18 people and plunging thousands into darkness. There has been no power or water in my building since Monday and I cannot withdraw any money to buy provisions” says a retired civil engineer. Demonetization is a complete disaster,” adds the 72-year-old.
CM Pannerselvam met the PM Modi in New Delhi on 19 December and submitted a memorandum seeking cyclone relief, among other demands. Sources say Indian government’s special task force is visiting Tamil Nadu on 20th December to survey the affected areas and submit an estimate of damages to PM Modi.
Vardah cyclone weakened the next day but could cause rain over northern interior parts of Tamil Nadu and adjoining areas of south interior Karnataka and North Kerala, the meteorological department said.
Meanwhile, the top AIADMK leadership, deeply worried about the void created by the sudden death of their beloved and strong leader who has complete sway over the masses, is seriously considering options to find the most suitable person to effectively work to defend the government and project the party form any disaster as opposition parties that lost elections to AIADMK repeatedly are obviously looking for opportunities to remove the government sooner than later. It may be only their expectation from the party’s confusion, but will Tamils opt for any other party than the ruling AIADMK in the state? .