T M Anbarasan’s social media accounts are abuzz with accounts of people recollecting the MLA’s deeds. New roads, restoration of water bodies and improvising the infrastructure in government schools are being hailed as his accomplishments.
Anbarasan, MLA of Alandur, has been vigorously campaigning across the constituency, aiming to win the seat for the third time. Contesting on a DMK ticket every time, Anbarasan was elected as an MLA from Alandur in 2006 and 2016. We caught up with him recently to know his thoughts on his five-year tenure and also his plans for the constituency, which has a huge share of rural localities such as Cowl Bazaar and Kundrathur.
How would you rate your five-year performance as an MLA?
I have delivered more than what had been promised, despite the challenges of getting approval for projects and sanction of funds from the ruling AIADMK government. I am very happy that I could construct an additional sewage pumping station at Nilamangai Nagar at an expense of Rs 25.5 crore. Residents had been fighting for the pumping station for more than a decade. More than 5000 residents, who had to vacate their houses every monsoon because sewage water would enter their homes, are now living in peace.
I strongly condemned the increase of property tax as it was a burden on the constituency residents. Property tax in the constituency was increased in 2008, when it was a municipality. Alandur was merged into Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) in 2011. So when the GCC increased the property tax two years ago, it was unfair on residents in Alandur constituency. I took up the issue in the assembly, requesting the government to fix the tariff after constituting a committee. We are happy that the government rolled back the rise.
Setting up Reverse Osmosis (RO) water projects in panchayats, converting 4000 sodium vapour lamps on the streets to LEDs, restorating the Arthanareeswarar temple pond and creating a walking spot at Moovarasampet pond are among the many accomplishments that I can be proud of. Most of these works were completed either through MLA funds or by pushing the local government.
At least 82 streets did not benefit from the metro water project proposed for the constituency in 2009. I have ensured water connections to those streets at an expense of Rs 12.5 crore.
But the Adambakkam lake restoration project has been in the works for many years now. Were you able to ensure any progress on it?
Utilising the MLA development funds, we have constructed a bund at a cost of 25 lakh. The beautification of the lake is crucial to sustain the groundwater level in the locality and so, I had spoken about the project thrice in the assembly. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami promised to beautify the lake in 2020. A Government Order has been passed and a sum of Rs 3.4 crore was allotted too. The work is progressing now.
Constructing a pedestrian subway at Nidhi school was first proposed 14 years ago. But the project has still not seen the light of the day yet…why?
The project involves multiple departments. Southern Railways, the nodal agency for construction of the subway, initially said that a subway cannot be constructed near the school due to technical reasons. However, after we fought for the project, Railways agreed to start the project a year ago. Owing to the pandemic, the work has been delayed.
Small buses that connected the interior parts of the constituency have been rolled back...many of your constituents feel strongly about that. What would you say to them?
Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) officials attributed the move to insufficient revenue in those pockets. I have held talks with the MTC officials. We will find a solution to the issue, if reelected.
Besides the small buses, we are also working on improving the entire transport infrastructure in the constituency. The work on the two MRTS stations in the constituency at Adambakkam and St Thomas Mount should be completed soon. The land acquisition case that halted the work has been closed, so work has resumed now.
Many feel that there is a need for more flyovers in the constituency. What role does an MLA play in projects such as these?
There definitely is. Realising that need, I have been pushing for the initiation of some proposed projects. One such project is the Thillai Ganga Nagar flyover that was proposed ten years ago. The work on the flyover was started two months ago. As a legislator, I could follow up on the issue with the concerned departments.
For example, I also held talks with the defence ministry to complete the flyover on Adyar river that connects Tharapakkam and Anakaputhur. These talks yielded fruit, as the project that was stalled for about ten years is now completed. Residents are elated to be using the flyover.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as legislator of Alandur constituency?
The constituency has a large chunk of land (with almost 54,000 voters) under the maintenance of Cantonment board. The board, which is under the defence ministry, is the nodal agency for solving many of the issues in these localities. Solutions are often time-taking, but not impossible. In one such plot of land, the board is demanding the evacuation of 8000 families who have been living there for 40 years. I am fighting to get them rights to the land or at least arrange for alternative land for them. A month ago, I went to Delhi and submitted a memorandum to the defence minister Rajnath Singh. He has promised to look into the issue.
Your constituency has around 12 village panchayats. What are the common problems in these panchayats?
Waste management — it is a common problem in all panchayats across Tamil Nadu. There has been a steep increase in the population in these panchayats. But there is still a shortage of staff in the panchayat boards. I want to resolve the problem one and for all in my constituency when I am elected again.
Lack of adequate infrastructure for youngsters is another pressing factor in these panchayats. Besides pushing for reforms in waste management, I will open public libraries and public gyms across all panchayats in the constituency.
How has your experience on the campaign trial been?
It is extraordinary. People from all the localities have been welcoming me.
What is that one trait that you feel will give you an edge over other contestants?
Citizen engagement. Not just before the elections, I have met citizens throughout my tenure. My office is always full, with visiting members of Resident Welfare Associations bringing in various pleas. I made it a point to meet all the stakeholders of the constituency (officials from health department, EB office, highways, PDS office, RWA members, local body officials) at the Alandur zonal office. This helped me understand the needs of my constituency and I was able to create a platform for citizens to meet concerned officials. Citizens can always meet me at my office in Alandur, next to the RTO office or at Nanganallur, next to the Anjaneya temple.