TNM visits two villages in Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts, where residents speak about the lack of govt relief works in the areas.

In Thiruvarur and Nagapattinam villagers angry with govt response after GajaAnjana Shekar
news Cyclone Gaja Wednesday, November 21, 2018 - 14:58

Anger simmers in the villages of Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam districts. It has been five days since Cyclone Gaja reduced their homes to rubble. A sea of discontentment is all that remains for the people in Thalayamangalam in Tiruvarur and Vizhanthamavadi in Nagapattinam districts.

Despite the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's claims on Tuesday that relief works started hours after the cyclone made landfall, people in these two villages deny it completely. Villagers are involved in protests across the districts in the past two days alleging that no relief has come from the government’s side for them.

Pasarai Rajendran, the former village president of Thalayamangalam in Tiruvarur district says that the MLA of their constituency, TRB Rajaa, had instructed them to be ready to face the cyclone. “We were all ready to get on the ground once the cyclone strikes but the state government was not ready,” he says. A DMK party functionary, Rajendran also adds that the government had brought a boat and tied it up in their party office but did not anticipate that power-saws would be in need after a cyclone.

“We (common men) immediately pitched in money and bought power saws to cut the trees. The trees in Rajagopalapuram village were cleared by the villagers after a lot of struggle. Even now there are a lot of trees fallen here. The government has no planning in this regard. They did not anticipate that the cyclone will uproot trees and that the need to cut trees will arise,” he adds.

It is not just the issue of non-availability of power-saws, but also the lack of enough generator sets that irks the villagers here. Rajendran says that the government had 16 gensets to cater to 51 villages after the cyclone.

“What will people do for drinking water? They need generators. The government has not realised this basic need and has not made arrangements for that. The government has totally failed in these aspects. There are 51 panchayats here and the government has 16 generators. How is this enough to provide water to everybody?” he asks.

It was the youngsters of the village who swung into action immediately after the cyclone, says Rajendran. “One of our DMK men’s brother lives in Coimbatore. So he arranged for a generator from Coimbatore to be used here. In the nearby village, many youngsters are abroad. So they collected around Rs 1,40,000 and bought a new generator to use in their village. Since the state government has not met their expectations, these men are helping out voluntarily,” he adds.

He also says that the youngsters took the first initiative to secure and save the cattle and the people who were trapped below the collapsed houses and trees and cleared fallen trees off the roads, thereby making the village accessible. “People did not have enough food and the shelters were being closed gradually. The MLA on his own effort and with the help of some NGOs arranged for rice,” he adds.

For those at Vizhunthamavadi fishing village (south) in Nagapattinam district, the word “government” sends ripples of anger. “They’ve done nothing for us so far. Whatever we have, we got from our relatives from neighbouring villages. We pooled in our own money to buy grocery. People from Vellakoil sent us milk packets,” says 52-year old Mahalakshmi.

Disappointment and frustration of not being important enough to attract the attention of the government is evident in the faces of the villagers here. Megala, another woman from the village, tells us that the fallen trees were moved by their own men and that no government officer visited them so far. “On Monday evening one MLA visited us. What is the use of visiting us after dark? What damage can they possibly see? Our men are hurt from moving these huge trees. Our children are falling sick with no medical help,” Megala seethes.

When TNM visited the hamlet on Tuesday, the Rotaract club was distributing sacks of rice and plastic pots to the people affected due to the cyclone. Mahalakshmi tells us that the two rice bags that the Government sent them has not been used by the people yet. “What use is that? We’ve been managing on our own. We will continue to do so,” she adds with a resolve.

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