Water Crisis shows gap between rich and poor

Sonam Choki

Chennai,  March 7: People queuing up for hours before a water tanker and a tap are common in slums whereas a hotels using a lot of water for their swimming pools, laundry, and guest room is seen in Chennai.

According to a report in Times of India, states that three-star hotels use 199 litres and four-star hotels use 292 litres of water on each guest night.

On the other hand it is difficult for slum dwellers to get drinking water once in three days. The Urur Olcott fishing slum at Besant Nagar is one of the slums with poor water supply. They get drinking water from the corporation three or four times a week which is very less for them. As they are facing inadequate water supply, they have to buy water which costs around Rs. 35 per jerry cane.

Raja Kannu one of the slum dwellers said “We earn very less and on top of that half of the earning goes for water which makes our living more difficult”.

“If there is money, there is water. No money means no water” said Pallani Swami, a slum dweller at Saidapet.

The water shortage also adds to the problem of sanitation, where people have to defecate in open area. The toilets inside the community are poorly maintained with no suitable water supply inside toilets. Whenever, they visit toilets they have to carry water along. The Corporation has failed to provide a functional sewage connection because of this sewage from homes collects on the beaches which adversely affect the groundwater.

S. Jaswinder a slum dweller at Saidapet said “The past four days, we didn’t have water and when we did get it is very little.” The water lorry comes on alternate days or after two days. We are able to fill only few buckets of water.

Sometimes we literally have to fight to fill a few buckets of water, he added.

Poor slum dwellers of Saidapet cannot have their own water pumps but they have built a community tank, which they use for their water needs whenever they face a crisis. However, the maintenance and cleaning of the tank is poor.

We don’t get clean water and boiling water everyday consumes wood or gas, or we have to pay extra electricity bills. A lot of people avoid the critical step of cleansing the water and put their families at serious health risks, said Kannu at Besant Nagar.

While hotels, industries and well-off families use a lot of water for leisure purpose for poor people, it’s difficult to get drinking water. The water crisis is most common among the poor at present but if the water is not used properly the situation may become worst.

Swimming pool at Residential area, Thiruvanmiyur| Sonam Choki

According to a report in Indian Express “The city records a 55 per cent deficit in rainfall last monsoon season, reservoirs are running dangerously low and ground water resources are under immense strain. Studies indicate that ground water levels across the city have reduced further by an average of 1-1.5 metres below the ground level since July.

Similarly, the report in Times of India states that the water levels in Thiruvanmiyur have dipped to 6.22 metres.


Soheib Ahsan

        Chennai, March 7: The plastic ban in Tamil Nadu went into full swing in January. Grocery stores stopped supplying plastic bags and began offering cloth bags to their customers while also suggesting they bring bags of their own. The ban is still ongoing which could lead to an impression that it is going strong.

       The plastic ban was on full throttle when it stated. Civic bodies in the State started by confiscating hundreds of tons of plastic packets from fruit, vegetable and flower vendors. But in March, vendors have gone back to using plastic packets with little to no worry of it being confiscated.

       Arpartiban (30) is a fruit vendor on MGR Film City Road. He often keeps 1 kg of apples and oranges in plastic packets for his customers. “The plastic ban is a problem for us but we are lucky because this is an election year. The authorities implement any new law strictly for a short time but then they get occupied with election work and leave it”, he said.

        Acquiring plastic packets has not been a difficult task for them since they have contacts for their supply. “Since I need these regularly, I know people who I can call and get these from. The only issue is that since the ban they raise their prices as they have the risk of getting caught”, said Chandrasekhar (47), a vegetable vendor on 3rd Cross Street in Kasturba Nagar.

        Most vendors remain confident that the ban will not be enforced again anytime soon and therefore keep their plastic packets on top of their selling carts in plain view. There are others who still fear that the ban may resume while they are unprepared. Such vendors hide their stock of plastic packets by tucking it under the cart’s platform, above the wheels.

        Shashikumar (74) is a street food vendor on 1st Avenue in Indira Nagar. “If they take the packets away I can get more but I am afraid that they could also give me another penalty that would cause a problem for my livelihood”. He said.

       The ban continues to remain in a standby mode which is a boon for the vendors and continues to be a bane for the environment. On the other hand the ban has and if resumed will spell trouble for simple street vendors who struggle to make ends meet. Only time will tell if this gap can be bridged to protect the livelihood of these vendors.

TASMAC faces protests from women

Police inspects the demolished TASMAC in Senthil Nagar on Thursday |Saptaparno Ghosh

Swapnajit Kundu

Chennai, March 7 :​The residents of Senthil Nagar, an area situated between Avadi and Ambattur railway stations on Friday protested against the construction of a Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) outlet within their locality, demolished the under construction shop, and threatened against any such activity in the future. The protest comes seven days after a woman named Kavitha in Anna Nagar locality of Tirupur district protested against the TASMAC business in the area, according to the Tamil Indian Express. Co-incidentally, the protest in Senthil Nagar was also headed by a group of women. 

Rangan, the society secretary of a housing complex in Senthil Nagar said, “We are residents here for the last 40 years. The owner who bought the land (for the new wine shop) said he will use it only for some personal use. We already have three TASMAC shops in our locality. Another one will only increase the problem. We have written to the concerned authorities about this.”

Safety of women

One of the main reasons why the residents are wary of the wine shop is the safety of women and children in the locality.According to them,it will be difficult for the women to walk around freely, with people drinking openly on the road outside the TASMAC. Even the police is unable to take any step against the wine shops because TASMAC itself is a government authorised chain. And the wine shops will lead to an increase in illegal parking spaces, congesting the traffic of the locality. It is also baffling for them why the wine shops are being set up so near the residential areas when there are a lot of free space in the nearby BajanaiKoil street.

The Women takes charge

According to Savitha, who is believed to have ledthe protest, the wine shops are having an adverse effect on the behaviour of people in the locality. “The more there are wine shops, the more there will be drunkards roaming around in the street. Many people here drink right from the morning,destroying their family life and hampering professional activities. Also, the safety of women is something we are very much concerned about. There have been cases of drunkards harassing women. It is time to put an end to all these.” 

Gayatri, a 64 year old woman and resident of the Senthil Nagar echoed the same concern. “Wine has destroyed many families here. And it also puts the safety of women and girls in jeopardy. Almost daily, we see someone sleeping in front of the house. We have to throw water to wake them up,” she said. When asked about whether the men in their households are comfortable with women leading the protest, Gayatri said, “If a problem arises, everyone comes forward to solve it irrespective of their gender. Women are facing the most problem with these wine shops, so it is only natural that we will come forward.” 

The local Station House Officer (SHO), Ajith Kumar assured the local residents that he will look at the matter. “But these TASMACs are government projects. So there is very little I can do,” he added. 

The MLA of Senthil Nagar,PandiaRajan also came to the protest to give assurance to the women residents that their issues will be tackled and resolved soon. 

Cycle rickshaws struggle as cabs and autos becomes popular

Survival of the fittest? Cycle rickshaws struggles for existence amid popularity of autos and cabs | Sruthi V

Sruthi V

Chennai, Mar 7: His lunch was dependent on the flower seller who transported the flower basket to the market. The flower seller had a smaller load and hence did not want to spend on a rickshaw. Prabhakaran, 44, who is a cycle rickshaw driver for the past 17 years, was devastated.

“People these days are dependent on autos and cabs as most of them are time-bound. This has made our lives difficult as we are not hired for any other jobs due to our age,” said Prabhakaran.

The three cycle rickshaws frequented the streets of Chennai Fort, Sowcarpet and Mint Street. The cycle rickshaws can accommodate three members at a time. Each ride costs around Rs 30 to Rs 50.  There were seven rickshaws but now there are only three. They ride from 9am to 8pm.

Prabhakaran said, “Before the arrival of these autos and cabs, people were dependent on us. There were days when I shelled nearly Rs.1000 a day. Now we could hardly make money for a meal.”

“My entire livelihood is dependent on this. I owned a rickshaw, but someone stole it. Hence I am riding a rented vehicle now.”

Prabhakaran, a cycle rickshaw driver

 “I am diagnosed with epilepsy and hence doctors have advised me to stop riding it. But this is my only source of income as I have to pay the rent for my house as well as the rickshaw,” he added.

The rent of the cycle rickshaw is Rs 50 a day. During the renewal of the Fitness Certificate (FC) of the vehicle, the rider has to pay a portion of the amount or else the vehicle would be given on rent to someone else.

“My entire livelihood is dependent on this. I owned a rickshaw, but someone stole it. Hence I am riding a rented vehicle now,” said Prabhakaran.

“North Indians are our frequent riders. They ride on our rickshaws even when there are several autos decked in front of them. They play a major role in our existence,” Prabhakaran said with a smile.

Prabhakaran treats his vehicle as his extended family as it helps him earn his bread and also provides him shelter. As his health deteriorates, he finds it difficult to pedal all day. But he denies quitting his job as he has been doing it for the past 17 years.

According to the Times of India report, few people prefer this mode of transport in other parts of the city. Many people feel cycle rickshaws should be banned as it is an inhumane practice as the drivers are often aged m en. Several cities in India have also called for a ban on then. Several cities in India have also called for a ban on these vehicles as they are slow and often cause traffic congestion. However, other people feel that cycle rickshaws should be encouraged as they are eco-friendly and consume no fuel. 

Destigmatisation: Mentally ill patients to receive formal documentation

by Akshara Srivastava, Bharat Sharma

Chennai, Feb 22: The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in Kilpauk is slowly inducting its patients into the Voters List before the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. With assistance from Disability Rights Alliance (DRA), they have enrolled more than 129 people as of now, including 62 men and 67 women.

Most government schemes and services can only be availed with a valid proof of identity. In lieu of this, the Institute intends to extend access to formal documentation to people with mental illnesses. This will include getting them Aadhar cards.

This is the Institute’s first initiative that involves patient participation. “This is the most progressive step we’ve ever taken… our society has never fully accepted mentally ill people as our own”, said Poorna Chandrika, Director of the institute.

Most of their patients were destitute or abandoned by their families. Owing to this, there are no documents proving their citizenship.

After screening their 900 patients, they figured out that 150-160 of them are mentally equipped to make a rational decision while casting their vote. According to D. Sumethi, Head of Voters Department and Social Welfare Officer at IMH, the voter patients are those who have been in recovery for a long time and continue to show signs of improvement.

“Only the improved patients will vote this time… We have many patients who have shown significant improvement over years. We’re starting with them”, she said.

129 patients have been registered with the Election Commission as of now. | The Hindu

Equipping patients with the right to vote is not enough. Awareness about politics is intrinsic to exercising one’s right responsibly. “We’re teaching them our political scenario and the history of Indian politics to help them choose their leaders wisely”, said D. Sumethi. 

Out of the 129 people who have been enrolled until now, six are patients with a history of crime. According to her, their improvement warrants inclusion in the list.

Besides this, all patients have access to television and regularly watch the news. “Someone will read the newspaper to them in the recreational hall so they can understand clearly”, added D. Sumethi.

Within the ambit of Representation of People Act, a person with an ‘unsound mind’ can be disqualified from registering and voting.

The Institute, with help from DRA intends to multiply the number of enrolled patients by three times next year.

The institute is curating a list of people below 60 who will be slowly registered over the next year. | Bharat Sharma

Providing a family like environment remains IHM’s priority. “We have always and continue to treat them as normal people who need extra care and medical attention”, said P. Chandrika. Asserting that voting is every citizen’s birth right she said that “this is why we’re doing this for them”.

Metro stations offer healthy beverage choices

Akshara Srivastava, Bharat Sharma

Chennai, Feb 15: Orange juice vending machines have started showing up at metro stations across the city, as part of Chennai Metro Rail Corporation’s (CMRL) efforts to make station food and beverage offerings diverse and healthier.

O. Jooz, at the Corporation’s ambitious machine squeezes fresh juice with no human intervention in less than 40 seconds.

At Rs. 100 a glass, it is not the cheapest alternative. However, unlike most vendors who use traditional juicers and fruit concentrate, the machine is entirely waste-free and has no additives.

A fairly new technology, it is the first of its kind in India and is imported from Singapore.

The vending machine cum juicer is designed to allow a transparent view of the juicing process. From skinning to squeezing, one can witness every step of the preparation.

According to Karuppusamy Andi, who works for O. Jooz, there are currently 20 juice machines across the Metro line.”These machines are located at stations like Central and Vadapalani. The feedback has been positive so we are looking to expand slowly but surely”, he said. The machines are washed and topped up every day.

The juice remains consumable if stored between 3-6 degree Celsius. It has no added sugar or preservatives, which is usually the case with packaged juices.

An O.Jooz kiosk at Chennai Central.

According to Rathinam Devendrar a daily Metro commuter, the machine has eradicated his dependence on carbonated cola drinks. “I drink this juice every day. It is a little pricey, but better than Pepsi which is simply unhealthy… It refreshes me but also makes me feel healthy…”, he said.

The Chennai Metro Rail Corporation (CMRL) has vending machines that sell carbonated drinks at every platform. However, this venture is part of its attempts to make stations offer instant healthy beverage alternatives.

Shruthi, Assistant Public Relations Manager, CMRL claimed that more healthy options will start showing up at stations soon. “This is just the start. Soon, one will be able to find mega chains like Subway and local chains like A2B at stations… However, we prefer more mechanised options… whereby vending machine technology is utilised to the max”, she said. They’re in talks to procure coconut water and salad vending machines soon.

Lags continue to decelerate Chennai Metro

Chennai Metro tackles lag and signal issues amidst a growing network

Akshara Srivastva, Bharat Sharma

Chennai, Feb 15: The Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) has been experiencing frequent lags and glitches since its inception.  

“The Metro here is slow in terms of frequency and also gets delayed often. It is particularly annoying when I’m rushing to office in the morning and the network is experiencing technical issues, causing delay,” said Ravina Subramaniam, who uses the blue line every day.

On Monday, February 11, the rail services on the blue line were disrupted due to an overhead cable tripping between Saidapet and Little Mount stations.
Services came to a screeching halt, and passengers were forced to de-board and walk alongside tracks to reach the Meenambakkam station.

Siemens provides equipment for overhead and power supply, the signalling software, and the passenger information display system.
“Siemens is providing all necessary support to Chennai Metro Rail Limited to ensure that there are no interruptions and delays to the train operations,” according to a  report in The Hindu

“The glitch was temporary and was resolved soon,” said Shruthi, Assistant Public Relations Manager, CMRL.

The passengers were offered free rides on Monday and the next day to compensate for the hassle. Stations saw huge crowds as citizens thronged to avail the free services. The glitch was resolved by 1 p.m.

The network also experiences signal problems frequently, delaying office-goers and school going children.

Many have taken to social media to express their frustrations with the metro services.

TN plastic ban evokes mixed reactions

Plastic cups Naresh had bought last year. Now they banned. |M. Naresh

CHENNAI:  A month after the Tamil Nadu Government banned the use of plastic in the State, shop owners are still dealing with teething problems.

“In IT hubs, working people order food for an entire group. And Tamil food predominantly consists of sambar and idli. But such items can’t be carried in paper bags. And aluminium foils are avoided as they are regarded as poisonous by many. Also, it’s not as if people have completely ceased to use plastics. There are many who are using it even now,” says M. Naresh, who runs a shop for decoration and plastics items at Malayaperumal Street, Parrys.

“The users and customers should have been consulted before the implementation of such a scheme.Their opinions must be respected, and their queries resolved. Even though it had been announced in advance, those who run small businesses like selling flowers, and running eateries, can’t afford to plan much in advance,” he says.

Rehman bought this bag from Bangalore. |Sumon Ali

Rehman,44, who runs a shoe shop at M.G. Road, Adyar, says that paper bags are costly.”One polythene bag costs me Re.1. For January I bought paper bags at the rate of Rs.550/kg, which means I had to pay Rs.7 per bag.”

Those who find the move positive regard it as a strategy to protect the environment.

Tilakeshwara,37, who works at a medical shop, says that the plastic ban is a good move as it will increase awareness.”People will be encouraged to carry their own bags instead of taking plastic bags from stores,” he says.

Deepak Motwani, 31, owns a clothes shop in Adyar. He says “I have bought paper bags in three varieties. The small one comes at the price of Rs 7, medium at Rs 11 and large one at Rs 15. So definitely there has been an impact, but the intention is good as the environment must not be polluted by plastics. So I support it.” He says that he got the bags from Royapettah.

Disabled people supported by the Andhra Mahila Sabha made these bags. |Sumon Ali

Venkat Chalam,44, Store Manager at Terra Earthfood Store,Kasturba Nagar,Adyar, has been using cloth bags for the past 5 years. “The small bag can carry 1 kg and costs Rs. 5, while the large one has a capacity of 5 kg and costs Rs.9. It is made from recycled newspapers. Disabled people supported by the Andhra Mahila Sabha make it.”

Buckingham Canal: Complaints go unheard


Chennai's largest Canal has been in an extreme poor condition for years causing foul smell and diseases.
The Buckingham Canal at Indira Nagar | Manjiri Chitre

CHENNAI: The city’s largest Canal, the Buckingham Canal, has been in an extreme poor condition for years. Residents of Indira Nagar have complained about the foul smell, and mosquito breeding, which has led to an increase in diseases.

The Buckingham Canal connects three rivers that cut across Chennai. These are the Kosathalaiyar River in the North, Cooum River in the Central Zone, and Adyar River in the South. The canal was primarily constructed as a navigation channel, although is mainly used for managing flood water, and ensuring tidal balance.

During the 2015 floods, the Buckingham Canal’s water had overflowed and destroyed houses nearby. “When the canal had overflowed during the floods, our entire house was destroyed with the filthy water from the canal,” said Suvarna P, who lives opposite to the Canal. She added that the street was stinking.

Residents opposite the canal have complained about the foul smell and mosquito breeding to the Corporation. However, there has been no response, they said.  

Behind the Indira Nagar Railway Station is controlled by the Railway authorities, except for the Canal. The authorities have refused to look into the matter. “We are not concerned with the Canal as it does not come under our jurisdiction. The State Government is responsible for the cleaning. Although, it has remained dirty for a long time,” said a Senior Railway Official, who wished to remain anonymous.

A Senior Corporation Officer who does not wish to be disclosed said, “We are only responsible for the de-silting of the canal. Otherwise, the Public Works Departments (PWD) is responsible for looking after the Canal.” The PWD officials were unavailable for a comment.