Councillor Talk: Menaga Shankar of Ward 197 promises access to education and government services

Menaga Shankar, Councillor of Ward 197 has a vision of improving the standards of corporation schools and bringing e-Sevai centres to her ward.

Menaga Shankar was born, brought up and married in Uthandi, now a part of Ward 197. She contested on an AIADMK ticket and was elected as a first-time councillor from the same ward. A political science student in college, she entered politics to bring good educational infrastructure to the people. She says she is particularly invested in the education of girl children.

Ward 197 has upmarket localities with posh bungalows along the coast, while on the other hand, it is also home to marginalised communities who depend on fishing and farming for their livelihood. The ward’s boundaries begin in Akkarai and end in Uthandi, with the East Coast Road (ECR) running along its length. The ward has many beach resorts and educational institutions like the Indian Maritime University.

Read more: Chennai Councillor Talk: Infrastructure and health are my focus, says Kayalvizhi, Ward 179

Ward 197

Name of the Councillor: Menaga Shankar

Age: 37


Education: MA in Political Science

Number: 94458 76424/ 9841257973

Ward 197 in Chennai constitutes areas like Akkarai, Kanathur, Panaiyur and Uthandi. Pic: OpenCity

What are your biggest achievements during your term?

We have laid many roads and constructed quite a few parks. We have also brought many improvements to the schools in the ward. Every day, I open the WhatsApp group (WP group including the ward officials) that keeps me informed of the ward’s happenings and helps fix issues as they come along. We have also made considerable progress in installing drainage facilities.

Primary goals for Ward 197

Ward 197 Councillor laying the foundation stone for a community centre. Pic courtesy: Menaga Shankar

How do you interact with the constituents in your ward?

 We meet the people directly to listen to their water, road and transportation issues. And, during ward meetings at the Corporation, we pass resolutions accordingly. I visit the location of the problem along with the relevant officials. If there is an issue with trees and stormwater drains, we call in the AE (Assistant Engineer); if there is an issue with mosquitoes, the health department comes in to fumigate.

What are the major issues in Ward 197 and how have you addressed them?

There are no e-Sevai centres in the vicinity. From Akkarai to Uthandi, there are 15,000 residents and five schools. When people need to apply for Aadhar, collect pensions or widows’ allowance, they seek out an e-Sevai centre. Two months after we won, the centre (on the ground floor of the ward office) was shut down. We sent letters to the authorities concerned, to open the centre once again but to no avail. If they opened it again, then it would help people access digital services without having to go to Sholinganallur or Injambakkam. Bringing an e-Sevai centre is one of my biggest goals.

You received a Ward Development Fund of Rs 35 lakh, how have you used it?

For many years, the residents of the area were using unpaved roads filled with stones and thorns. After I won the post of councillor, I used the first fund to lay roads for them. With the second fund, we made a community centre for people in Nainarkuppam. The third fund was donated to a school, Chennai Thodakapalli in Uthandi, where it was used to make a kitchen along with a dining hall. 

Recurrent flooding and drainage issues

Every November and December, there is a risk of flooding, are there any measures in place to prevent that?

The people in Nainarkuppam face difficulties during the floods, and in some streets there was waterlogging, with water entering many of the homes here. At that point, we employed tractors and motors that worked night and day to rescue people and remove the water. During that time, we provided essentials, especially food and water, to residents.  

The faster there is a drainage system, the quicker the people will feel safer when the monsoons arrive. We are working towards constructing properly laid SWDs and sewage systems to avoid flooding.

Read more: Councillor Talk: Ensuring basic amenities the focus of Sherly Thomas in Ward 187 – Madipakkam

Vision for Ward 197 and city

What do you want to achieve in your term as councillor?

Of all the people I serve, I would like to nurture achievements accomplished by girls. In the three primary schools in this ward, I want to make provisions for smart classrooms. I have requested the government to facilitate this and we are likely to get the classrooms soon.

The corporation schools here do not have classes beyond the 10th standard. That’s why, students interested in studying further have to travel long distances to either Thiruvanmayur or Kovalam, even for classes 11th and 12th. Moreover, when they leave in the morning, the buses are crowded, and coming back home in the evening becomes difficult. No matter how much money we amass, the best future for our children is through education.

The government is doing a good job of supporting the education of marginalised children. If I can upgrade the schools in my ward to have 11th and 12th standards to supplement the government’s efforts, it will be a good achievement.

What is your vision for Chennai?

The progress of Chennai lies in the better future of the next generation. That’s why we need to improve the curriculum and activities conducted in our government schools. Nobody should presume that these schools are inferior. All the government schools in Chennai should be brought to the level of private schools.

What advice do you have for women who want to enter politics?

I think that more women can enter politics. But, they need mental strength to succeed in this field and courage to step out of their homes. 

Challenges of a newly-added ward

What do the residents of Ward 197 say?

CK Kumar is a member of the Juhu Beach Residents’ Association in Uthandi. He has lived in the ward since 2015, and talks about living in a relatively new part of the city. “Up until recently, this area was under a panchayat,” he says. “It joined the city corporation less than ten years ago.”

“This means that water, sewage and electricity connections are still not well-structured, and not entirely set up. Electricity is brought to the area through overhead lines, but those are easily disturbed in bad weather. Just yesterday, it rained for a while, and we lost power. Planned power outages are manageable, but these are unpredictable and dependent on the weather,” he says.

“Improvements are being put in place, but they are all still incomplete,” he adds.

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  1. bharath.v says:

    MAJORITY OF PEOPLE SAYS-In197-ward there is no e-sevai center. If we want to change and update or otherwise to apply for a any government document.we want to go shollinganallur e-sevai centre for that.If we want to apply we should reached there before 9am because they allotted by a tokens if we went later we can’t get that token.we need e-sevai centre in 197-ward it has been useful for all people.mostly the children & aged people get excited and happy.

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