Ground report: Women's safety, water woes & other issues of Thousand Lights residents

While some tell us that redressal is quick in this high-profile urban constituency, people also point toward women's safety and better job opportunities as some of their concerns.
Teynampet signal on Anna Salai, aerial view
Teynampet signal on Anna Salai, aerial view
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“Bad roads, water scarcity are some of our recurring problems yes, but what we want most is for our women to walk the roads safely, and employment opportunities for all. Life has become tough, especially after COVID-19 lockdown,” says a resident of Royapettah, a neighbourhood that falls under the Thousand Lights Assembly constituency. While she walks quickly away before she could give us her name, her friend Hamsa, also a resident of the same area, continues. “What about inflation? The cost of everything seems to be going up while we have no increase in income. No matter who comes to power, I believe we’ll have to continue dealing with these problems,” Hamsa says without batting an eyelid.

Thousand Lights, which falls under the Central Chennai Parliamentary seat, can be considered a model constituency where people coming from different rungs of the society live; A typical urban area. Thousand Lights covers Choolaimedu, Chetpet, Nungambakkam, parts of T Nagar, Kodambakkam, the whole of Royapettah, Gopalapuram, Thousand Lights, among a few other central Chennai neighbourhoods. This time, the fight is between DMK’s Dr Ezhilan, BJP’s Khushboo, MNM’s KM Sherif, NTK’s Sherin and AMMK’s Vaidhiyanathan.

Thousand Lights, undeniably, is called a DMK “fort”, with the party having won seven out of eleven times since 1971. The seat at present remains vacant following Ku Ka Selvam’s shift from DMK to the BJP last year. Thousand Lights is also where MK Stalin, DMK’s present Chief Ministerial face, made his electoral debut in 1984. While he lost the first time, he won his first MLA ticket from here in 1989. Since then, he has lost once in 1991 and won thrice (1996, 2001, 2006) before shifting base to Kolathur Assembly constituency in 2011.

For most of the candidates contesting from here this time, it’s their first election and this includes Dr Ezhilan and Khushboo. While the DMK candidate, a doctor by profession coming from a family of party supporters (son of former deputy chief of the State Planning Commission M Naganathan) has been focussing on door-to-door campaigns, BJP’s Khushboo too, who was previously with the DMK and then the Congress, has been making her presence strongly felt in the constituency, augmented by her star value.

Civic issues, traffic problems, water stagnation during the rainy season and such do exist in Thousand Lights constituency as well but given that it’s the heart of the state’s capital, the response here has always been quick according to its residents. The constituency was home to former Chief Ministers M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa. This puts the constituency’s problems in perspective when compared to the rest of the state.

At Namachivayapuram that borders Choolaimedu, we catch up with a few residents who have gathered outside their homes for some evening banter. “We have water problems, mosquito breeding and all that but all of it is addressed as soon as we make a complaint with authorities. Redressal here is quick and we have no big complaints,” one of them tells us.

But people do have specific complaints that they hope their MLA will be able to address. An MTC bus driver who resides in Namachivayapuram tells us that the issue with the bonus for employees has continued to be on the government’s back burner, inspite of protests from the union. “Government after government our demands continue to be disregarded. No matter who comes to power, unless they give us what we want, it makes no difference,” he says. On February 25 this year, several transport employees unions declared a strike which they then temporarily called off a day later. Among their multiple demands was wage revision and clearing up the provident fund.

For a couple of auto drivers parked at Gopalapuram area, their concern seems to be with cab aggregator services like Ola and Uber. The DMK manifesto has listed Rs 10,000 subsidy for autos. Will this help, we ask. “What’s Rs 10,000 when a minimum service will cost up anywhere above Rs 15,000? We want the government to bring services like Ola and Uber under control. No one seems to be talking about our welfare while the corporates continue to drain us out. Just count the number of autos on the roads here in the city and tell me we don’t matter,” 42-year-old Anil Kumar who has been driving an auto for the past 20 years asks.

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