International columnist, political analyst and senior journalist Ahmed Mohiuddin Siddiqui’s articles are published across Asia, Africa and Europe. He writes for The Moroccan Times, The Tunis Times, India Tomorrow, Kohram News, The Etemaad Urdu Daily and for news papers published from Muscat, Sultanate of Oman. You can follow him on Twitter at: @journopolana[/symple_box]
The southern Indian city Chennai and its adjoining district Kancheepuram are battered by the heaviest rainfall in 10 years. The nature’s fury has claimed 95 lives till the filing of this report. Army has been called in to assist in rescue operations. More than 14,000 people have been evacuated to safer places. Chennai is submerged in water. As the saying goes, it has been raining camels and elephants! The city infrastructure is in complete shambles as there is water logging, which is submerging even buses. Life has come to a complete standstill. Schools and colleges have been closed for the past three days. SRM University and Anna University have postponed their examinations until 21st November 2015.
The weatherman has predicted more rains in the coming two days due to a storm centred around Srilanka. Srilanka is at a stone’s throw from Chennai. Fishermen have been advised against venturing into the sea as it could be dangerous in the current situation. Human beings and animals are stranded in several places. The stench coming from the huge pile of garbage is unbearable. Once, the rains subside, the authorities need to take steps on a war footing to stop the outbreak and spread of epidemics.
‘According to the Meteorological department, Chennai had received 246.5 mm rainfall in the last 24 hours. It breaks the record of November 2005 rains which was 142.4 mm, disclosed Thambi Narayanan, deputy director general, Meteorological department, Chennai. But the highest rainfall during the north-east monsoon was in November 1976, when the city recorded a massive rainfall of 452.4 mm.’
Surprisingly, this year’s rains are quite different. It was neither a depression nor a cyclone but a low pressure that devastated the people’s lives. This low pressure system was formed near Sri Lanka before moving northwards.
The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa after visiting the rain-affected areas in the north of Chennai said, “damages due to very heavy rains was inevitable.” She has promised immediate assistance from the government to all the affected people. It may be noted that Chennai is the capital of the southern Indian state Tamil Nadu.
It may be recalled that the Met department alert issued in September 2015 warned of an above normal rainfall and the same was conveyed to the Tamil Nadu government as well as to the Chennai city authorities. However, the municiapal corporation of Chennai did precious little to prepare for the situation. Making tall claims of preparations, the corporation issued statements. It detailed the quantity of silt already removed from drains and boasted of super suckers, jet-rod machines and desilting machines and other machines used to clear water off the roads.
It appears that the tall claims of the municipal corporation that the city will not sink were thrown flat in the face and washed away in 24 hours of torrential rains. It is amply evident that the storm water drain projects that drained out several million Indian rupees in the past two years were still clogged and jammed.
It is but natural that questions are being raised now. They are not just about the desilting contracts in the last few months but also about the multi-million storm water drain projects and their technical aspects. In July 2014, a Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) engineer had confessed in a letter to his boss explaining how his superiors executed a multi-million storm water drain project at Koyambedu on the suburbs of Chennai. No concrete reinforcement or cement was used but quarry dust!
Tamil Nadu and Chennai are paying for the sins of the politicians. Corruption is a major malaise. Many politicians including former central ministers from the state and even the present Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J. Jayalalitha have been accused of major corruption scandals. Jayalalitha could be reinstated as the Chief Minister after the High Court quashed corruption charges and released her from jail this year. Politicians’ sins are not washed away but the city’s infrastructure is being washed away. For now, Chennai residents seem to be singing in chorus:
Rain, Rain, go away,
Come again another day.