Chennai Floods: Modi mocked and ‘Amma’ missing in action during emergency – Malay Mail

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015Modi became the object of mockery on social media after his press office released a doctored photo of him inspecting flood damage. For both him and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the image of strong leadership created by their publicity machines was undermined. – Reuters

One of India’s most powerful politicians, a former movie star called “Amma” or “Mother” by her followers, is being heckled and abused for going missing in action after floods swept the capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, which she rules.

It’s a salutary lesson for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who at first drew nods of approval when he rushed to Chennai last week, promising to stand by its people in their hour of need.

Yet, within hours, Modi became the object of mockery on social media after his press office released a doctored photo of him inspecting flood damage.

For both him and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram, the image of strong leadership created by their publicity machines was undermined.

Until the floods that ravaged the city of six million, the lofty remoteness of Jayalalithaa added to the aura around a leader with an almost hysterical following. Devotees of the 1960s screen idol have immolated themselves in her defence in the past.

Now, she faces a backlash from residents fed up with the sight of her image on billboards, aid packets and her own Jaya Plus TV channel. She has been seen in public only twice during the crisis—once with Modi.

Angry youths heckled a state minister and officials in Jayalalithaa’s north Chennai’s constituency, where people were sitting on the roadside amid sludge and mountains of garbage, their shanties swept away by the worst rains in a century.

“Forget about Amma coming here, there was no sign of the party cadres,” said one of them, called Dorairaj.

Chennai Floods 2015About 280 people have died across Tamil Nadu since torrential rains on December 1 submerged tracts of Chennai under up to eight feet (2.5 metres) of water, trapping people on rooftops with no communication.

There was further revulsion after a party legislator put up a poster of Jayalalithaa lifting a baby above the floodwaters, in a scene from a blockbuster movie. “Adding salt to the wounds,” said one Twitter post.

Avadi Kumar, a spokesman of her ruling AIADMK party, said there was anger among the people but the administration was doing all it could to bring relief: “It is impossible to reach all areas immediately or be present everywhere at all times.”

Good days

Modi’s own promise to voters of good days to come for India is also starting to face disenchantment, 18 months into his five-year term, with key reforms stalled by bureaucratic inertia and political gridlock.

Ambitious initiatives, such as a “Clean India” campaign, have made little headway—even as Modi has built up huge followings on social media and addressed enthusiastic diaspora Indians at packed stadiums on his many trips overseas.

“If today he appears to have lost control over his own narrative, it is his own fault,” commentator Tavleen Singh wrote in [the December 6th] Indian Express, urging Modi to hire a professional media team. Modi does not have an official spokesperson.

Jayalalithaa, 67, in the past considered as a possible prime ministerial candidate backed by regional groups, faces an election in Tamil Nadu next year.

Modi’s nationalist party has little presence in Tamil Nadu, a state of 70 million. It would rather the iron-fisted Jayalalithaa stays in power, believing she is more inclined to back his reform agenda in parliament than her rivals.

But there are concerns around her health and that she may have to curtail her campaign.

Earlier this year a higher court acquitted her in a graft case for which she was briefly jailed, which had caused an outpouring of anger from her supporters. Some lay down on roads and tried to persuade bus drivers to go over them.

“She is supposed to be a fantastic administrator. But this time there was no presence of government at all. Ordinary people did all the work that government and police were supposed to do,” said S. Raja, one flood-hit resident of Chennai. — MalayMail Online, 6 December 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

Chennai Floods 2015

There are many hundreds of private individuals, organisations, and civic workers serving in water-logged Chennai and assisting the city’s affected citizens (see the Google Crisis Page). We cannot begin to name them or show them in action, so we have limited ourselves to depicting images of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard and NDRF sent by Prime Minister Modi, along with the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services. – Editor

12 Responses

  1. Chembarambakkam Tank

    Chembarambakkam Tank

    Chennai Floods: Scientists warned, but Tamil Nadu ignored – K. Karthikeyan – Deccan Chronicle – December 08, 2015

    An overflowing Chembarambakkam would not have left Chennai floating and a disaster of this magnitude could have been averted if only the government had paid heed to the warnings and suggestions of its scientists.

    As early as 2009, scientists of the Ground and Surface Water Research and Data Centre, a research wing of the state Water Resource Organisation, had cautioned the government that the city would not be able to withstand 10 cm rainfall plus discharge of surplus water from Chembarambakkam lake on the same day.

    The study, commissioned immediately after the 2005 flood by the then AIADMK government and completed in 2009 during the DMK rule, had revealed the absence of even flood lines (flood line is the extent to which surplus water from overflowing rivers will spread out) on the bank of Adyar River. The scientists suggested construction of a flood carrier from Chennai river basin to Palar river basin to avoid disasters like the one that has now devastated Chennai.

    “We found out that most of the water spread area and flood line along Adyar River was encroached. We advised our bosses not to permit any construction within the flood line. We suggested diversion of surplus water from Chembarambakkam reservoir to Palar River. All that the government had to do was construct a flood carrier for around 10 km from the lake to Wallajah,” a retired WRO scientist told Deccan Chronicle.

    MUST READ: Delay in decision to open sluice gates caused flood of trouble

  2. Chennai Floods 2015

    AIADMK sings paeans to Amma, rivals slam timing – Times of India – TNN – Chennai – Dec 7, 2015

    The city is yet to recover from the devastation wrought by the rain but the ruling AIADMK has deemed it is the right time to release a poem on social media praising Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa.

    Opposition leaders are fuming over its timing, coming as it does after reports of AIADMK workers forcing volunteers to paste pictures of the chief minister on relief material, and putting up posters describing her as a saviour of the people.

    Penned by Chitraguptan, the poem describes the recent catastrophe and the government’s efforts in detail. The AIADMK supremo and government officials, it says, are working round the clock to provide relief.

    It reassures “people who have lost their peace” that Amma is looking after them. “Her kindness is a great solace to the suffering people”, it says, adding that people need not fear when “Amma is there to protect us.” Published under a digital letterhead of Namathu MGR, the party’s mouthpiece and dated December 6, it is titled “The peace which was destroyed by the floods will be redeemed by our Amma – this is a promise.” The verses describe the “furious rain which history has never before witnessed”. After the Poondi, Veeranam, Madurantakam and Chembarambakkam reservoirs, water was let out to prevent breaches, he writes.

    For the first time ever, the poem says, the Adyar overflowed, Chennai airport was closed and the railways suspended services. Despite preventive measures, hundreds of lives and crores of property were destroyed. In this situation, “Amma’s government is striving to provide food, essential services and security for the devastated people of Tamil Nadu.” The poem describes the government’s efforts – providing milk, water, clothes, essential items; police, fire services, army working together, medical camps, free bus services, et al.

    The state government has come under heavy criticism for diverting attention from the immediate issue. CPM leader U Vasuki said her party had thus far stayed away from critiquing the state government, to focus on relief work, but reports of AIADMK workers attempting to paste stickers on relief material and posters glorifying the CM provoked them to react. “The whole state is in crisis. This is not the right time to shower praises. Moreover, the state has not done anything commendable to praise their relief efforts. The timing of such propaganda is shocking,” she said.

    Chennai Floods 2015

    SEE ALSO: When politics hijacks relief efforts – Madhu Bharathi

  3. Politicians will be politicians: War breaks out to corner credit for relief – Times of India – TNN – Chennai – December 7, 2015

    Full four days after the pounding it received from record rains, Chennai started its journey back to normalcy on Sunday despite some politicians standing in its way.

    Power was being restored, the airport reopened, outgoing trains restarted, cell phones were on and queues in petrol bunks and shops were shorter.

    Rescue was over but relief was on in full swing. From government agencies through corporates to NGOs and good Samaritans, everyone was pitching in. In some areas there was a glut of relief material – largely food, milk packets and so on that were going waste.

    Without a nodal agency, NGOs were rushing in wherever a need was felt. Some neighbourhoods were going without food while in others people were complaining they could eat only so much curd rice or lemon rice.

    Banks were working on Sunday to clear the backlog and ATMs had come back to life, restoring money supply.

    But, along with semblance of normalcy came ugly politics. Politicians wanted to leave their individual mark. There were reports of local party bosses stalling relief work by NGOs, and worse, some wanted their palms greased before allowing relief workers into their areas. The state government was quick to deny an allegation that social welfare minister B Valarmathi stalled supplies sent by employees of an IT major. The company too denied there was a problem.

    As the day wore on, it was clear that the cracks in civic infrastructure that were papered over and which residents had put up with had become gaping holes. Many neighbourhoods like Thiruvanmiyur and Velachery were still waterlogged.

    Though TNEB officials pointed out that many of their employees haven’t slept in days, power was still a problem in many places.

    They said unless water was drained they couldn’t risk switching on supply for fear of electrocutions from live, open cables. Corporation officials said those areas that couldn’t be drained out had to wait for the water to dry out, adding to people’s anger.

    While locals hope normalcy returns on Monday, the Met department forecast moderate to heavy rains for four days. Schools and colleges, closed for the past four days, that had been shut for nearly a month will be closed on Monday, too.

    READ ALSO: Tamil Nadu government keeps Army waiting, Chennai rescue operations suffer


    It’s a sorry picture on CM Jaya’s turf – Times of India – TNN – Chennai – Dec 7, 2015

    Ideally, they are expected to be on the field giving directions to official machinery in the times of crisis, but senior ministers of Tamil Nadu were on Sunday busy posing for shutterbugs in R K Nagar, CM J Jayalalithaa’s home constituency. For the record, they were to launch a mass cleaning exercise in New Washermenpet.

    But in the name of the ‘exercise’, electricity minister Natham R Viswanathan and his colleague held a shovel to showcase a piece of trash on it to the flashbulbs even as passersby criticized the duo. “We are ashamed by their act,” said A Ravindran, a resident of Tondiarpet. At least 708 doctors are out in Chennai to run camps, 40 of which are in R K Nagar alone.

    Many doctors from Tiruvannamalai Hospital and paramedical students were waiting patiently for the ministers to end their shutterbug moments so they could tend to the residents.

  4. It is very easy to criticize and audit ! Honestly, let any of the media people answer the following: 1. In the existing situation of an establishment, which can not be shaken at all, a met office, which can not quantify, the rate and duration of ” HEAVY ” rains, would any body, including you and the general media have done any better? 2. Have not ‘AMMA ” and the rains have helped you to present good masala news? 3. How many of the media people will be willing to take over the reigns and run the Government efficiently and satisfying all the sections of the Society? 4. Like Dr. MK, Vijayaakanth, Dr. Ramadass and many other cheap politicians, you are mocking at JJ and Modi not inspecting personally; for an efficient and talented individual leader, it is not necessary to personally inspect the devastation or the war front! they can get the precise situation from their own sources; are you not getting the info. from your reporters? For the sake of consoling the people, as a publicity stunt, every body doctors images and publicizes; each one of us, in that position, has to do that! 4. After all in ” DEMOCRACY ” and rule by the majority, the people in the Vote Bank and the party officials have also to be appeased; every party, including the Communists do this; then why criticize JJ alone? 5. How many and who of the media have been trying to develop the general public and the ” ELITE OFFICIALS ” ? could you ensure only the capable people occupy the positions? could you undo the reservation systems? Are you not a party to expanding the volume of ” OPPRESSED PEOPLE and the MINORITIES” ? 6. What have you done to project the ” GOD MADE ” talented people, who contributed to the growth of the Nation? All of you, the President, the FM and the media talked high of an IITian “inventing” the monogram for Rupee or for a cinema Star or of a Cricket or Tennis Player as if that was the dire need of the country!

    • I concur with the above comment. An article like the one published in Malay Mail is an insult to the numerous conservancy workers, corporation officials, EB workers and the police who have worked tirelessly to clear the floods and restore electricity in record time in most parts of the city.

      • The comments do not appear to be relevant to the article above (which is a factual review of the governance in an emergency of two seemingly autocratic rulers who like to be in control always).

        Raghunathan Srinivasan has used his space to launch a diatribe of miscellaneous complaints against the media.

        And Jayasree has concurred with the diatribe with an extraneous comment about an insult to the city’s various workers.

        The real insult to the city’s workers comes from their leader the mayor, Saidai Duraisamy, who went into hiding during the crisis!

        He was supposed to be leading from the front, even moreso than the chief minister.

        Vasanth Srinivasan in The Hindu writes:

        A situation that called for extraordinary steps
        The government and the civic administration have been found to be severely wanting responding to Chennai floods

        As rains lashed many parts of Tamil Nadu, huge tracts of densely populated areas became completely inaccessible floating islands. As power was switched off to avoid large-scale electrocution, mobile towers, basic telephony networks and internet cables too went kaput, making all forms of communication impossible.

        So, inaccessible and incommunicado are two words that best described the plight of most people in the State over those scary three to four days. If we add a couple of more words such as apathy, ineptitude and political complicity to the list, we would have well summed up the conduct of the State administration, both pre- and post The Great Tamil Nadu Floods. Yet, while the floods of November/December 2015 is a natural calamity of gargantuan proportions, it has also been an extraordinary situation which called for extraordinary measures.

        The chief causes for the extent of the damage — encroachments along waterways, illegal constructions on lakes and riverbeds and water bodies that are in constant state of disrepair required attention from the government much before the floods occurred.

        The government and the civic administration have been found to be severely wanting, if public reactions are to go by. The civic administration headed by the Mayor literally pleaded to be left alone, a group of the State government’s ministers had to face flak from protesters when they visited flood-affected areas in Chennai. The Chief Minister continued to avoid directly interacting with the Press and relied only on ‘press releases’.

        Silver lining

        The saving grace has been the reaction from civil society which has shown extraordinary generosity, ingenuity and fortitude in reaching out to the flood victims. It is the collective wisdom of the masses that has given the hope that this too shall pass and Tamil Nadu, particularly Chennai, will emerge only stronger from the catastrophe.

  5. Footage of the U.S.Consulate, Gemini Circle and The Park, taken by Carnatic musician Prince Rama Varma as he was escaping the floods at Chennai by car.

    Prince Rama Varma’s music videos are available on YouTube at Musiquebox.

  6. The worst part is in Cuddalore,the Dalits were refused access to clean water,the Primary Health Centers/official relief were located in higher-caste areas-As Per The Report by NCDHR and Social Awareness Society For Youth.This prompts them to turn towards Missionaries and we have to blame ourselves if this report is true.

    • Oh yes, the missionaries will be getting their great harvest of souls from this disaster, just as they did after the tsunami in 2004.

      This too is a fault of India’s national and state governments that have given these evil disaster exploiters a free hand in the country for decades.

  7. As per the writer, a PM who rushed to a Souther State, cutting short his Parliamentary work, is just his job. No one from the party which ruled for 65 years, cared to visit the State, even today, is nothing. These are for Media Folks, like you.

    Chennaities remembers PM timely visit with gratitude. The photo-op of aerial visit is not his job. We know the true intention of PM, who air-dashed to State. His visit forced the CM to make an aerial survey (her first one) just hours before his visit. Because of PM directions only NDRF, Army, Navy, AF personnel engaged themselves in full.

    If Media wants to have some employment with PMO, let them seek job of Media advisor, in some other occasion. But do not use this hour of crisis. Do not fish in our troubled distress.

    I never expected such a blog in Bharabharati.

    • Of course you can excuse Modi for the foolish mistakes of his officials.

      But in the end he is responsible and he is the man who suffers the consequences.

      The same goes for Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa.

      Both these leaders and their parties have shown utter contempt for the intelligence and suffering of the Tamil people with the doctored photographs!

      Are we supposed to pretend that we haven’t seen them?

      The article above is an official Reuters news release and is published in every major newspaper of the world.

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