Councillor Talk: Sumathi’s vision is education for every underprivileged child in Chennai’s Ward 77

Sumathi, Councillor of GCC Ward 77, wants to bring infrastructure in her ward on par with areas like Anna Nagar or Kodambakkam.

From a homemaker, who had little knowledge of the workings of the outside world to being triumphant in the Chennai urban local body polls and managing her ward B Sumathi, Councillor of Ward 77, has charted an eventful journey.

“My husband was quite active in the party and also involved in social work. Since, this was a ward reserved for women from scheduled castes, I was given a seat to contest. To my surprise, I won by a margin of 6,847 votes,” says Sumathi.

Speaking about her tenure so far, she says, “Though I was scared initially, I soon learnt that a councillor’s work is similar to managing the home. Normally, we budget for our house expenses, school fees for the children and other such needs. We also ensure cleanliness in our homes. The same applies to maintaining the ward, but on a larger scale.”

Ward 77 – KP Park

  • Name of Councillor: B Sumathi
  • Party: Indian National Congress
  • Age: 40
  • Educational Qualification: Grade 10
  • Contact: 9445467077 / 9884163129
Map of Ward 77.
Map of Ward 77. Source: Greater Chennai Corporation

Read more: Councillor Talk: Nilavarasi wants to make Ward 136 a model ward

Primary goals for Ward 77

As the Councillor of Ward 77 in Chennai, what have you been able to achieve in the past year?

Many parents ask for educational assistance for their children in one or the other form. With the help of a non-governmental organisation, I started a free tuition centre for the students in the locality, especially for those in classes 9 to 12. We also conduct computer classes for these students free of cost. Around 100 students study in this tuition centre and I would consider this as my achievement in the past year, among other initiatives, for the improvement of Ward 77.

How do you interact with the constituents of Ward 77 in Chennai? What kind of outreach activities have you held so far?

People in my ward know my contact number. I also created a WhatsApp group that has both residents and officials as members. People often raise their complaints in the group and the officials give an update on the status of the complaint. I also interact with the public during my regular field inspections. This apart, they give me their petitions at my office and home.

Issues in Ward 77 in Chennai

What are the major issues in Ward 77 in Chennai? What measures have you taken to address them?

Ward 77 Councillor Sumathi - Chennai
Chennai’s Ward 77 Councillor B Sumathi distributing notebooks to school children. Pic: Shobana Radhakrishnan

There are many tenements of Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board (TNUHDB), the erstwhile slum board, in Ward 77. Water supply, garbage collection, sewage lines and road infrastructure were not proper in this ward. Being a homemaker and having lived in the same locality for many years now, I know the struggles faced by women when the water supply is not regular or when the sewage lines are blocked in the house.

My priority was to resolve the issues related to basic amenities; I ensured areas that did not have water supply, were given connections. At least eight water pumps were installed in Ward 77. I have instructed conservancy workers to carry out garbage collection properly. While we have refurbished a few roads, proposals have also been submitted to relay more roads in the locality.

The conservancy workers also had a lot of issues. They did not have a proper room to change clothes or rest. Hence, I have got a room built in my office campus for the women workers to rest and change.

How have you used your Ward Development Fund of Rs 35 lakhs?

We took up the renovation work of roads, an anganwadi in Ward 77 and schools in Sundarapuram; installed equipment for children in a playground and allocated a part of the amount to provide evening snacks for students at the tuition centre.

During the floods, hardly any councillors were seen on the ground. What did you do for the people during floods?

Ward 77 is one of the worst hit areas during the 2023 floods as the stormwater drains from Wards 56, 73, 75, 76 and 78 flow towards Ward 77.

I was working on the ground throughout the floods. Since I live in the locality, most of the people in Ward 77 knew my address and they came directly to my house to make their complaints. I listened to them and coordinated with the corporation officials to address their issues. Since the water was stagnant for three days in Ward 77, we could not restore power supply. But, we did our best to ensure the affected people got food, water and other such basic items during the floods. We provided flood relief assistance to at least 10,000 people here.

Read more: Councillor Talk: Ambedvalavan aims to improve civic amenities and prevent flooding in Ward 73 – Pulianthope

Vision for Ward 77 in Chennai

What do you hope to achieve in your term as Councillor?

There are a lot of schools in Ward 77 of Chennai that require renovation. Basic amenities like roads and water supply should be improved a lot. I wish my ward comes up to the standard of areas like Anna Nagar in sanitation and infrastructure. Ward 77 also has many single women, who are involved in daily wage work. I want to provide employment opportunities to them and also help them become entrepreneurs.

What are your thoughts on women entering politics?

I was a homemaker until I assumed office as a councillor and now I wish more women like me come into politics.

What is your vision for Chennai?

I wish all the wards in Chennai had the infrastructure on par with areas like Anna Nagar or Kodambakkam.

What the residents of Ward 77 say:

Kamalakannan, a shopkeeper in KP Park locality, says that the area was badly hit during the 2023 floods. “It took more than three days for the water to recede and more than half a month for the area to return to normalcy. Most of the people living in Ward 77 are working-class people and so I feel the government neglects us. Areas like Anna Nagar have all kinds of amenities. Why is it that we have to live without the most basic amenities?” he asks.

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