Guest Opinion: Chennai floods


Students of Satybhama University being ferried to safety

By Tarun Murthy

It’s been more than a month now and I haven’t seen any respite. I’ve been living with a friend in Banu Nagar for the past week, ever since my ground floor apartment in Velacherry got submerged.

Power cuts are frequent, and considering that several metres of broken and exposed power-lines are steeped in brackish water, I really cannot object to them at all. In fact, I’m thankful that the Tamil Nadu government is doing that much at the very least!

But amidst all the chaos, I just have a few concerns to reconcile as a citizen; a few questions that I’m beginning to realise only I can answer for myself, because of the lack of national coverage and the gross misinformation spread on social media, only worsened by the fact that those living in flood-affected areas really have no way to know what’s happening:

1. Misinformation on social media

I have to completely honest about this, but social media has come to our aid beside a number of shortcomings, namely the sheer amount of misinformation being generated by trolls and perpetuated by well-intentioned paranoiacs. None of us took it seriously when we found out crocodiles had escaped from the park into flooded areas of the city, but as we speak there is a rumour in circulation that NASA has predicted an El Nino cyclone, that could potentially wipe out Chennai. People outside Chennai who received the news were able to deduce it to be a hoax fairly quickly, but for the ones living in the city, the possibility of a full-scale cyclone is not one we’d take lightly. In fact, we rightly freak the hell out.

Nonetheless, social media has proved to be an invaluable source for updates on the flood situation, despite its occasional shortcomings, moreso than most news outlets. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Where is our national media coverage?

National media has neglected the situation in Chennai for far too long. Between Sun TV contantly abusing Jayalalithaa, and Jaya TV endlessly defending her, we HAVE to turn to national news media for information…which isn’t there.

More than underrepresenting the natural disaster, media outlets with nation-wide reach seem to have ignored Chennai entirely, and it was not until PM Modi agreed to give 1,000 crore rupees for flood relief efforts, that news outlets like NDTV, Times Now and CNN IBN started giving us updates. Even Doordarshan has covered the floods better!

3. Why are AIADMK and DMK still continuing their propaganda?

To get straight to the point, I’ll put my grievances with the state parties in list form:
– Amma’s face is being plastered on relief packages sent by citizens from other parts of the country
– DMK is putting too much effort into criticising Amma government (however, they are functioning independent of the state and centre, at the very least)
– Moreover, DMK is providing support almost purely for the purpose of gaining an upper-hand in the next elections (Karunanidhi: “satisfying the affected people to the extent possible”)
– Amma has refused funds from Karnataka for purely political reasons (accepted under pressure)

On the brighter side

– The Central Government is offering invaluable assistance
– Rescue operations by the Indian Armed Forces are being conducted brilliantly

One last note:  please stop comparing Chennai to Venice, now is not the time for jokes.


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