Chennai: At the entrance of Hanuman Colony Main Road, Injambakkam, two banners put up by the residents in Tamil reads – our voters are not for sale. It warns candidates during election campaign to refrain from offering money or gifts in return for their votes.
Rajan-Selva Nagar Residents Welfare Association and Hanuman Colony Residents Welfare Association took up the initiative to put up the banners after being fed up of gross neglect by the officials of various departments.
The banners were put up during the last day of filing of nominations by candidates. But on the same night, a former councillor and his men tore it in anger. This was caught on CCTV camera and the residents lodged a police complaint.
Rajan-Selva Nagar Association secretary Pon Thangavelu says, “They threatened us for putting up the banners. Even after we lodged a complaint, it was not taken up.”
A long-time resident, he alleges, “The civic body, Electricity, Metrowater departments take up work only if they pay them.”
“Sample this: there are 27 ponds and tanks in ward 196 and through residents’ initiative, two were saved. After cleaning up the ponds and putting a few ducks and goats and fencing it, the Corporation officials took away the keys,” he says.
Thangavelu says, “We do not have a single stormwater drain or sewer lines. Many houses still have not got Metrowater connection. Most of the roads here are pothole-ridden. The roads were laid 10 years ago. Any candidate who assures to address these problems will get our vote. The residents do not want money or gifts, they just want basic amenities.”
After the association came up a few years ago, the office-bearers have been on a mission to ensure the residents rightfully get their due without having to shell out money.
A residents says, “We have had party people come and harass families building their house on their own plot. They ask for Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000. What is wrong in building a house on their own land?”
The office-bearers also conducted house-to-house campaign seeking not to entertain candidates who offer them freebies.
“The residents are alert. They have understood the consequence of selling their votes. They have changed their mindset. This area, which comes under ward 196, has 15 streets with 2,000 votes,” says Thangavelu.