Supporters of the ruling AIADMK party are allegedly harassing volunteers and asking them to share the relief materials hampering the efforts of many to help the people of rain-battered Chennai.
A series of reports on news websites and videos broadcast on Tamil television channels said that AIADMK men have been asking volunteers to give up relief material like food and water so that they could distribute them amongst the people.
One such video widely broadcast on local channels shows a clutch of relief volunteers from Bengaluru, who were preparing food for flood victims in Anna Nagar, being intimidated by an AIADMK party member and his aides.
According to a report in The Hindu, the party member identified as Ko Tamilselvam demanded 2,000 packets of food from the volunteers, which he wanted to distribute to the local people. When the volunteers refused to do so, Tamilselvam and his accomplices got angry and issued veiled threats.
The report said Tamilselvam and his aides returned later after learning that the volunteers were distributing the food packets in the locality without inviting them and mouthed expletives, moving menacingly towards the volunteers.
The video was broadcast by many channels including those with and without political affiliations.
Another video, which did the rounds on social media, shows a man claiming to be the husband of a councillor demanding food packets from an NGO worker so that he could distribute them himself. He refuses to budge even when the worker explains that the packets are already assigned to specific places.
Finally, he grudgingly let go after the volunteer demands a written request and captures the threat on camera.
This comes after reports of workers of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK), which is led by chief minister J Jayalalithaa, forcing volunteers to paste her pictures on relief materials meant for Chennai flood victims. The party had promised to take strict action against such workers.
AIADMK rubbishes claims
Following criticism on social media, the AIADMK top brass denied that the party’s workers were harassing volunteers and vowed action against those hampering relief work.
“Media is being constantly misled. We have been guiding and helping the volunteers. How do we know that the claims made in the video are true? If it is proven true, the party high command will take severe action. The opposition parties are taking advantage of a crisis to take advantage politically,” a party leader told the Hindu.
“Rescue workers can send their complaints via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet to @aiadmkofficial or call 044-28130787, 044-28132266, 044-28133510. Action will be taken,” The Hindu quoted another party official as saying.
People loot relief material
According to a report in The News Minute, volunteers carrying relief materials were stopped by certain groups or villagers who demanded that the relief materials be given to them, in spite of them getting such packets earlier.
A reporter with The Indian Express also reported such incidents.
“Relief trucks 2 flood hit areas in Cuddalore being ransacked by mob on highways, volunteers seek police protection,” Express’ Arun Janardhan tweeted on Monday.
A video showing villagers looting relief materials was also widely shared on Facebook. Click here to see the video.
In a series of tweets Vanathi Srinivasan, vice-president of Tamil Nadu BJP, also said she is getting reports about relief materials being looted by locals.
A PIL was filed by advocate A P Suryapraksam seeking protection for organisations and workers carrying flood relief material for distribution to the affected people, was on Wednesday referred to a division bench by the Madras High Court.
The petitioner said he had submitted representations to authorities requesting them to constitute micro-level disaster management and relief-providing committees to coordinate with individual volunteers and NGOs in all flood-affected areas and claimed he had first-hand experience of being accosted by such persons from distributing food to the needy.
In spite of availability of sufficient relief material, volunteers were not able to distribute these to victims as they were clueless about where and whom to give the material to, he contended.
(with PTI inputs)