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

Councillor Ambedvalavan wants to fight discrimination and stigma attached to North Chennai and improve civic amenities. He spoke to us about his plans for Ward 73.

“One of the first things I did as soon as I took charge as a Councillor was to ensure that the frontline workers in my ward were treated with respect. I gathered all the sanitary workers and the local officials in my ward and instructed that the frontline workers, especially the women who are often ill-treated, should be treated with respect. This includes gestures like providing them with a seat during a conversation,” says Ambedvalavan (A) Kumarasamy, Councillor of Ward 73.

Most of the people in Ward 73 are the people from the economically weaker section who are discriminated against based on both caste and class. They are also stereotyped as they hail from North Chennai.

Read more: Stigma around Pulianthope: How does a neighbourhood become criminalised?

Ambedvalavan’s interest in politics started with his family. “My father was in DMK and so politics was pretty much part of the family. I joined VCK in 1996 as I liked the ideology of the party and the leadership of Dr Thol Thirumavalavan. Since then, I have been involved in several protests and groundwork for the welfare of the people,” he says.

“My aim is to improve the basic amenities in the ward in part with that of areas like Anna Nagar,” he adds.

Ward 73

  • Name of Councillor: Ambedvalavan (A) Kumarasamy
  • Party: VCK
  • Age: 45
  • Educational Qualification: BA
  • Contact: 9445467073 / 9840298923
Ward 73 Chennai
Map of Ward 73. Source: Greater Chennai Corporation

Primary goals for Ward 73

As the councillor for Ward 73, what have you been able to achieve in the past year?

Water stagnation during rains and power cuts were major issues in my area. There were times when it took more than four days for the stagnant water on the roads to drain. Since I took charge as the Councillor, I have made sure that both these issues are addressed to the extent that it takes less than half a day to clear the stagnant water from the roads. I have also made sure the old electricity boxes were replaced with new ones.

The Corporation officials also allocated a couple of workers to clean my office and assist me with other work. But, I asked them to deploy the workers to clean the roads as that will benefit the public. I clean my own office and my party cadres help me with other work.

The majority of the people in my ward are from the working class. They toil day and night as daily wagers to make ends meet. My primary aim is that the people in my ward should go to bed with peace at the end of the day.

Having mentioned that you do not require staff support from the corporation and that your party cadres support you with your office work, what are your thoughts on the plea seeking salary for the elected councillors?

This is a very genuine request and I hope the Chief Minister takes this into consideration. An elected representative in a legislative assembly gets around Rs 1.5 lakhs salary a month. Whereas, the elected Councillors, who are in close touch with the people have no salary at all. I do not mean that MLAs should not get paid but that the councillors should also get paid.

Given the significant role of Councillors who should be on the ground to attend to issues faced by the public at any point of the day, the government should recognise their work and consider that the Councillors also have a family and fix a minimum pay scale.

How do you interact with the constituents of Ward 73? What kind of outreach activities have you held so far and plan to do? How can people in the ward contact you? 

I printed over 5,000 visiting cards which also had my personal contact number and distributed it to the people in my area during the election campaign even before I distributed the manifesto. I promised them that I will respond to all the calls and have kept the promise to this day. I pick up all the calls I get.

Irrespective of what the complaint or the time is, I go directly to the spot and look into the issues raised personally. Based on the complaint, I reach out to the officials concerned and try to resolve the issues within 24 hours.

Besides, people in my ward also know my office and are always welcome to walk in anytime.

I was born and raised in this area and have done the groundwork, including several protests, in support of the people for all these years. I know about the issues in the area not through petitions from the public but through lived experience. Hence, it is easy for me to connect with my people.

Issues in Ward 73

What are the major issues in Ward 73? What kind of measures have you taken for this?

Geographically my ward is a larger ward. After delimitation, a lot of areas from Wards 76, 72 and 71 were added to Ward 73. Blocks in sewerage lines, especially during rains, is a major issue in my ward. It was very challenging to handle it. Over the past year, we have made sure that the stormwater drains were constructed in areas that did not have one. Works are also underway in a few other areas. At least 60% of the stagnant water now drains faster during rains.

The major challenge now is to handle the blocks in old sewerage lines. As these pipes are very old, it is hard to spot the blocks and clear them. I have raised the issue in the council meeting and the officials have assured to come up with a solution to the problem.

Read more: Looking beyond stormwater drains to realise the dream of a flood-free Chennai

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

A sum of Rs 35 lakhs is the ward development fund allocated to a councillor to address the issues in their area for a period of one year. This amount is insufficient. I spent Rs 35 lakhs allocated to me for the first year on reconstructing one Anganwadi centre, whereas there are seven such Anganwadi centres that require reconstruction. We reconstructed another Anganwadi centre from the MLA’s area development fund. This is only one issue in my ward.

Given the reality that the allocated amount is hardly sufficient to address even one issue, what will we do for the rest of the year without any funds?

Many Councillors, including me, have raised the case in the council meeting. We have requested the government to provide at least Rs 1.5 crore per year to each of the councillors. This will help in resolving at least the major issues in the ward.

Vision for Ward 73

What do you hope to achieve in your term as a councillor?

I hope to make the areas in my ward free from water stagnation during rains. I hope to use the power I have as a councillor to address public issues and resolve them as much as I can in this five-year period.

Brick Kiln Road in Chennai
Ward 73 Councillor Ambedvalavan wants the Brick Kiln Road in Chennai renamed after Rettamalai Srinivasan. Pic: Shobana Radhakrishnan

There is a road named ‘Brick Kiln Road’ in my ward. I have been requesting in both council and ward committee meetings to change the road’s name to ‘Rettamalai Srinivasan Road’, a pioneer in standing up for the oppressed people, as his memorial is in Otteri. I would consider it a huge achievement if I was able to change the road’s name.

What is your vision for Chennai?

There are large halls like Thiyagaraya Hall and Amma Hall in South and Central Chennai but there are no such prominent halls in North Chennai.

But, North Chennai is also the area that has produced so many champions in carom and boxing. Establishing such open halls will help to conduct events in North Chennai that will also help to break the stereotypes associated with the people here.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has also allocated Rs 1,000 crore for the development of North Chennai. I hope this amount will help to resolve all the basic amenities, traffic congestion and improve the area for better.

What the residents of Ward 73 say:

Kathir, a fruit vendor in Ward 73, says that the Councillor has been reachable on the phone at all times and has immediately attended to the complaints raised by residents. “Water gets stagnated in our areas often even for a short spell of rain. Though the stormwater drain works are underway in few areas, we do not find a permanent solution to the issue,” he says.

“There are a lot of schoolchildren who are interested in sports in our area but there are no proper facilities for them. It would be nice to have well-equipped free coaching centres for sports. Also, as many of the parents are working most of the time, we would also like a dedicated free tuition centre, for the children in the ward,” says Sumathi, another resident of the Ward.

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