This could be the most ironical statement of the decade, especially when the Chennai floods in 2015 continues to give the city a bad name. With heavy rains lashing the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu, Municipal Administration Minister SP Velumani claims that Tamil Nadu is better organised when it comes to rescue operations and flood management than the US and the UK.
Yes, you heard it right. Probably, the minister needs help in recalling the amount of loss the state had incurred then. So much so that the then chief minister J Jayalalithaa had to seek the Centre's help in compensating for the loss and also had to seek funds for improvement in infrastructure.
Coming back to the statement by Velumani, this is what he said, according to a report by NDTV:
"It rained in Bengaluru recently, earlier it rained in the UK and US and we were told it was flooded everywhere. It shows our action is better than those of developed countries".
According to a report by the New Indian Express, he also seems to have said, "...everything was floating in the US and the UK. But, in the State and in Chennai, we have made better arrangements for managing floods than the US and London (UK). Steps that have not been taken by even developed countries have been taken by the Tamil Nadu government. Late chief minister J Jayalalithaa had procured all modern equipment required for flood management and we have been praised for our works too."
This, when schools and colleges have been shut for the past 2 days for the fear of a similar debacle like that of 2015. Overnight rain of 4 cm has been recorded in the state, which lasted till 5:30 am in the morning. Traffic in city and suburban areas have reportedly come to a grinding halt, given the state of the roads due to heavy waterlogging.
Speaking to the media, Velumani said, "Special attention is being paid to districts affected by heavy rain. IAS officers have been appointed to all 32 districts to monitor Northeast monsoon works. In Chennai alone, 17 IAS officers are monitoring rain-related works." Rebutting the accusations levied by the opposition leader M K Stalin, Velumani compared the situation during the DMK regime with that of the AIADMK, saying that the situation was much worse during the DMK rule. "In one particular year during the DMK rule, more than 1,400 places had water stagnation. At that point in time, water could not be drained for two weeks. Now, that is not the situation, we have taken enough steps to remove stagnated water and move people affected in certain areas to safer places and provided them with basic needs."
On Tuesday, a woman is said to have died in Cuddalore, 190 kilometers from Chennai, after a wall of her home collapsed due to incessant rains.Despite that, state officials assure that "things would be far better than 2015" and that the "citizens should not worry". For instance, D Jayakumar, Fisheries Minister, said on Tuesday, "We have the capacity to handle the situation like the foreign countries. We are prepared."
On the contrary, state records and the statement issued by the Flood Control Room are not that impressive. Evidently, measures for rescue operations have been taken, but there is no foolproof plan pertaining to disaster management and improvement in state infrastructure.