In the aftermath of cyclone Gaja, which caused severe damage in some areas of Tamil Nadu, the people in the region allege that relief work has slowed to a snail’s pace. Though the government has appointed special officers to supervise and speed up the relief and rehabilitation work, those affected expressed their anger and disappointment with the pace of the relief work in their regions.
Kothamangalam, Pudukottai district
Five government vehicles were set ablaze by villagers in Kothamangalam, Pudukottai district who were allegedly angered by government reports that underestimated the damage caused by the cyclone. They demanded that relief work be expedited in their village and the surrounding areas. The most affected areas in Pudukottai are Keermanagalam, Vadakaadu and Alangudi, according to the SP of the district.
The incident occurred on Saturday night when the villagers blocked the roads using fallen trees. When the Tahsildar of Alangudi came to take stock of the situation, the villagers confronted her and raised questions over the steps taken to reduce the damage caused by the cyclone. Pudukottai District Revenue Officer (DRO) and Revenue Divisional officer and the DSP of Alangudi soon rushed to the spot to diffuse the tension between the villagers and the government officers.
In the tension that ensued, the villagers set fire to five government vehicles, while others resorted to pelting stones.
According to Pudukottai SP, around 500 people were involved in a protest in Kothamangalam near Alangudi. “They were angry because they wanted relief work to be done immediately. Government officials are doing what they can and officials have even come from other districts. But they are not able to address the issues immediately since the loss is much more than what was expected,” he told TNM. Adding that the villagers were blocking the road using fallen trees, he said that the officers could not survey the area. “The problem is that by not allowing these vehicles they are further delaying relief efforts. The Tahsildar and DRO had to come there to diffuse the situation. DSP Ayyanar of Alangudi was injured in the stone pelting that ensued,” he added.
Peravurani, Thanjavur district
Meanwhile, the residents of Mundachikkadu, Nadankadu and Kazhanikollai villages in Peravurani Taluk along with some members from the farming community protested at the house of the Peravurani MLA M Govindarajan on Sunday.
According to reports, the people staged protests at the MLA’s house said that they did not have drinking water supply since the cyclone ravaged the area and that the MLA did not take any initiative to provide drinking water to the people. In addition to this, people from around 15 nearby villages, including Ullur, Mavadukuruchi and Punalvasal protested against the district administration and the ministers for not showing up after the cyclone to assess the damage caused by it.
Similar road blockages by villagers were also reported from Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts when people accused the authorities of not stocking enough food and water to cater to their needs after the cyclone.
CM's comments draw criticism
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palanaiswami’s comments on not being able to visit the cyclone-hit areas in the state has drawn flak from across the state.
On Sunday, the chief minister said that it would take two more days for him to finish his pre-scheduled events after which it would be possible to visit the cyclone-affected regions. Speaking to the reporters after inaugurating a flyover in Salem, the chief minister said, “I was planning to visit Nagapattinam today. It is about 350km from Salem. I need a whole day to visit all the coastal areas affected by cyclone. But number of events like flyover inauguration in Salem, new building inauguration in Namakkal and dedicating new medical equipment were scheduled.”
He is expected to leave to coastal areas on Tuesday morning for taking stock of the situation, but comments made by the chief minister has drawn sharp criticism from political leaders across partylines. DMK’s MK Stalin and AMMK’s TTV Dhinakaran slammed the chief minister for citing pre-scheduled events as a reason for delay visiting the affected areas.
Cyclone Gaja made landfall near Vedaranyam in Nagapattinam district in the wee hours of November 16. Clocking wind speeds of upto 120 kmph, the cyclone devastated the region and moved on to destroy interior districts on the Cauvery delta. Tiruvarur, Thanjavur and Pudukottai districts have suffered extensive damage due to the cyclone. Official death toll stood at 45 as on Sunday and around 2.5 lakh people have been displaced from their houses and lodged in shelters across the districts.