For the residents of Dr Radhakrishnan Nagar (RK Nagar), which has served as Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s constituency for the last year, things have changed for the better since she stepped into the seat.
While P Vetrivel of the AIADMK member was the MLA of the area till May 2015, he resigned to make way for the AIADMK supremo. She won the re-election with a huge margin and became the MLA on June 27, 2015.
The residents here think much has improved in the short time since she took over: “In the last six months, we have begun seeing a change here, new roads have been built and street lights have been changed, said Ramesh, 35 years old, who works in a printing press.
Reiterating his words, Ramesh’s friend Shivakumar, who works in a welding shop said, “Vetrivel would not even visit the constituency.”
For Venugopal, an auto-driver, the most beneficial change has been the local Amma Unnavagum, thanks to which he can have a meal for Rs 5 now.
Thalaivani, a 48-year-old who runs a food shop in RK Nagar, has a long list of benefits that Jayalalithaa has delivered: “Amma has given us the Amma Unnavagam, grinders, and during floods we were given a packet with so many things in it (Residents of the area received a bucket, utensils and basic food items). She also came and met us during the floods in November 2015.” She adds that she made sure to get another glimpse of the Chief Minister when she came to the constituency on February 28, 2016.
During her visit, Jayalalithaa told the residents of RK Nagar that they have a special place in her heart. She inaugurated projects worth Rs 180.41 crore and also laid the foundation stone for projects worth Rs 193.26 crore in her constituency. She added that the government had been implementing schemes for the welfare of the people, focusing on primary, manufacturing and service sectors in the last five years.
RK Nagar was not adversely affected by the Chennai floods and the relief came early for the people. “During the floods, we were provided food packets and drinking water by the AIADMK cadres and we also got Rs 5000 as relief fund,” said Shanmugam, a 35-year-old vegetable shopkeeper.
He also added that before Jayalalithaa became the MLA, Vetrivel did not do much for the constituency.
However, people in the area also say that there are still many problems that make daily life difficult.
One of the main issues is drinking water, as the water supplied to the area is often mixed with drainage. “For an hour, the water which comes is clean, after that it starts coming mixed with drainage water,” said Murugan, a 54-year-old shopkeeper.
What about the metro water tanks? “They rarely come at night here,” said Murugan.
Venugopal, the auto-driver similarly points out that drinking water in the area often comes mixed with oil. There is an oil pipeline running to the Ennore Port, and residents allege that oil from the pipeline contaminates the local water supply.
Not far from the main road, there is a small street called Kannupillai Thottam. For the people in the locality in RK Nagar, drinking water is not the major problem, but a road that remains untarred. For the last 10 years these residents have been demanding that the road be tarred. “Last time, they came and said that they can cement the road. We refused that. We said that we want tarring on the road as it will allow water to seep in easily,” said Kanniga, a house-wife.
“The corporation people ask for money for any work and we being poor people, how will we give money to them? Our children keep falling in this place,” said Saraswati, another housewife.
The metro rail project is a worry for the shopkeepers in the area as their shops will be torn down for the project.
“Till Tondiarpet, the metro rail is underground. After that, it will run in this place instead of our shops. Why can’t they make it completely underground? We protested against the metro coming up where our shops are situated. The metro is coming up about 500 metres away from the beach whereas, it is restricted to build any kind of construction for about one kilometer from water bodies,” said Manikandan, a shopkeeper.
The metro rail will not only affect the shopkeepers but also schools, temples and churches.
“This project will affect many shopkeepers in this area. Other than that, a decade-old temple, schools and a petrol bunk will be destroyed for the project,” said CN Ratnam, a former councillor from the DMK.
They have written letters to the councillors and the Chief Minister but no response has been received. “We will try our best so that the metro rail project does not affect us,” said A Jubalingam.
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