Councillor talk: Improving roads the aim for Fathima Ahamath of Ward 61 – Egmore

Fathima Ahamath discusses changes brought about in Ward 61 and her larger vision to make the ward a model ward in Chennai.

In 1958, Fathima Ahamath’s father, the late A.K.A. Abdul Samad, who led the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) for 25 years, began his political career as the ward councillor of Harbour (erstwhile ward 60) of the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC).

“I am proud to carry my father’s legacy,” she says. “I have taken up this job with a commitment to make a change.”

Fathima entered the world of politics at the age of 25. Even though she had her inhibitions about her new career, her father and partner provided much-needed reassurance.

“They wanted me to break the glass ceiling and show the world that a Muslim woman coming from a conservative background can become a responsible elected representative in India. This is the first time a woman ward councillor is representing the party in the GCC,” says the councillor of Ward 61.

Ward No 61

  • Name of Councillor: Fathima Ahamath
  • Party: IUML
  • Age: 50
  • Educational Qualification: B.Com
  • Contact: 9941837786
chennai ward 61 egmore map boundary
Map of Ward 61. Source: Greater Chennai Corporation

Primary goals for Ward 61

What are your immediate targets for Ward 61?

Fixing the roads, sorting out sewerage and constructing a community centre in Ward 61 are my most immediate targets. I also want a gym and a football turf to be constructed.

How has your experience been with working with GCC officials and representing your ward?

It has been a mixed bag. Initially, when we won took office in March, there was a very lukewarm response.

Unfortunately, there have been no councillor elections for the previous six years, with no elected representation. So, the officials were in-charge of decision-making. It took ward councillors around six months to understand the roles, hierarchy and working of the officials.

After pushing to know, learn and get involved, things started falling into place in September. The State government gave instructions to form disaster management teams in every ward in Chennai. I had a meeting with all the heads of the various departments. That was the first time we all sat together and coordinated. From then on, I could see a visible change. But we can still improve these relationships, and I am hopeful of that.

Issues in Ward 61

What are the major issues in Egmore?

We do not have a lot of law and order problems in Egmore, thanks to very cooperative residents. We do not have major crimes in our ward.

But, there is a lot of encroachment on the roads where the major hubs lie- like the government museum and Egmore Eye Hospital. These days, we do not know who is the legitimate street vendor, or who is illegally encroaching on the footpaths.

For instance, if you see the Alsa Mall road, I keep hearing about instances where vendors get vending licenses as being physically disabled. But, other people are operating the roadside shops- we do not see any physically disabled person there. I am not against street vendors. But, I just hope that the vendor licensing process is streamlined.

Read more: Sellers and residents voice their concerns around street vending in Chennai

How can the residents of the ward approach you regarding issues and grievances?

Residents have my phone number and people can immediately share their issues with me on WhatsApp. I request they share the location and the photo while reporting any issues.

I have representatives on the ground in Egmore and Pudupet. Since IUML has alliances with political parties like Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Indian National Congress (INC), Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), Communist Party of India (CPI), they too help in connecting with the citizens.

Apart from this, there is a full-time staff member present in my ward office who can also be approached. I also frequently participate in community activities and undertake inspections in the ward.

Ward councillors debating in a council meeting at Ripon building
Fathima Ahamath in attendance at a council meeting in Ripon building. Pic: Padmaja Jayaraman

Vision for Chennai and Ward 61

What is your vision for Ward 61?

Ward 61 is the heart of Chennai, a prime location after Chennai Central. We have key educational and healthcare institutions like the Egmore Children’s Hospital and Ethiraj College and other important buildings like the museum. Ward 61 also consists of two slums.

When Chennai is seen as a model city through an international lens, I want Egmore to be a model in the city, where we will not have grievances from the public and tourists. My vision for Egmore is that it will be a happy place to live and thrive, and must stand apart from the 199 wards of Chennai.

Read more: Egmore: Political battles overshadow civic issues

What is your vision for Chennai?

I want to see Chennai with good roads- bad roads have been a problem in the city. When I visit countries which rain throughout the year, I see that the rains do not batter the roads, and top priority is given to roads.

But we are heading there. For instance, what could not be solved in 40-50 years was solved in 2022- stormwater drains. With good governance, we can solve issues.

Apart from roads, I want to see Chennai having no problems with waterlogging and sewage issues. If these three issues are fixed, then the major problems plaguing the city are solved.

Improving the city’s schools is another key necessity. Equipping students in English and Tamil is very important while imparting education, according to me. Tamil is a classical language, apart from the mother tongue of many; and English would help students climb the global ladder.

What the residents of Ward 61 say:

R Chandran, a resident of Casa Major Road, says, “There have been improvements in the roads and drainage in the past year. While we had water stagnation after rains, this year was different. We were relieved that the flooding that was seen in the past was prevented. We hope this continues even in the coming years.”

P Nalini, a resident of Lang’s Garden Road, says, “Waste management needs to be improved. There is frequent dumping of garbage on the road where I live. It is a huge health hazard, especially when it rains. We already deal with issues with mosquitoes as we are close to the Cooum.”

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