Chennai, formerly known better by the name Madras to the world, that has centuries of history and legacy is now making headlines across the international media- a constant for the past few weeks in the South Indian media- for the record smashing torrential rainfall that is had seen in a hundred years. The impact of the flood is so great that it was discussed across the dais in the Paris Climate Summit few days back.
The national media -so called- did a procedural mentioning about the news of Chennai floods, on the days of highest impacts and quickly resumed to other North Indian and Delhi political landscapes. Few of them had exceptionally covered the news with their news correspondents, who perhaps for the first time visiting this part of India apart from a few ceremonial visits then and there. Following closely the news coverage one might understand that the magnitude of the damages due to the floods actually got their attention only after the Chennai international airport was marooned soon after the heavy water clogs forcing to shut down all the services for the first time in its history.
The flood has mercilessly washed off the livelihood of thousands leaving them refugees in their own land. On the other hand it had revealed some important revelations .The mismanagement of the water bodies and the unchecked encroachments of the water bodies by real estate mafia (could certainly use this term here) in the pretext of assisting unprecedented urban development boom in the past decade. The inefficacy of the ruling government, to be precise, the miscommunication and poor local assistance to the army personnel devoting themselves relentlessly in the rescue operations is glaringly crippling the relief operations and the ultimately reducing the quantum of work that is being done at this moment of crisis. The shameful power politics of the ruling government party cadres had invited national attention and criticism alike.
One of the major blunders is the lack of preparedness from the state to face a natural calamity of this magnitude. This reminds us of the devastating floods of the Uttarakhand in 2013. A lot of striking similarities, from administrative failures to check on the land encroachments to mishandled planning and management of water bodies, could be identified between them.
Nature through the Chennai Floods has again offered an important lesson to all the metros in the country and elsewhere globally. One of the main reasons cited for the loss is the encroachments of the water bodies and cultivatable lands turning them to residential areas. This is a result of acute urbanization in the past decade with Chennai at its focal point. Not just Chennai but the development model of any state/country is centered on very few cities. These cities become the nodal points of development, employment generating hubs and even the city planning and the sophisticated livelihoods that come along with them become the most important reasons attracting people towards these cities.
This ultimately results in imbalance in the demographic distribution directly changing the population density to a larger extent. Sooner, there arises a situation where the public opinion settles with an unshakable belief that a better life is never possible outside these dream cities. All the hopes are pinned to a single node and when that is punctured the whole state begin to grumble. This is one of the main reasons why Chennai attracts more media attention than Cuddalore district which has equally bagged heavy loss due to the current Tamil Nadu floods. It is this dream bubble that stand as the psychological reason behind the very labeling of the floods as Chennai Floods.
These floods have reiterated the necessity to build and promote Tier-II cities across the nation rather projecting the top cities alone by the policy makers. This delegates the accumulation of job opportunities and hence scatters the population which in turn makes governance more efficient and easier.
On the emotional side it’s heartwarming to witness the overwhelming response from the public in lending a helping hand to the needy in the affected areas. An ineffable joy fills the heart while seeing scores of volunteers braving the still thundering rain and the scores of relief materials that keep pouring from all over the state and the solidarity shown by the rest of India. The army personnel who are involved in the relief operation are reportedly sharing their awe for the kind of voluntary assistance in rescue operations and related helps which they haven’t witnesses elsewhere in the country.
Hospitality is one of the most respected and quoted trait of the Tamil culture is proven through actions this time to their own kith and kin. A Tamil poet of the Sangam age, Kaniyan Pungundranaar’s poetry ‘Yathum Oore Yaavarum Kelir’ (To us all towns are one, all men our kin) is being proved at the moment.
All the borders of caste, creed and religion got eroded and humanity dominates them all!