“I was not someone who aspired to become a politician. My dad is the reason I am here now. He has been associated with politics and the Dravid Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for over two decades. However, I never felt like his involvement in politics was political. It felt more like social service. This made me more interested in politics and when I got the opportunity to contest in the urban local body polls, I went for it,” says Nilavarasi Durairaj, the 24-year-old Councillor from Ward 136 in Chennai.
Interestingly, Nilavarasi is a full-time MBA student. She balances her studies along with the duties that come with being a Councillor. During weekdays, she attends college and spends her after-college hours at her office. During the weekends she spends all her time at the office.
“If the college is from 8 a.m to 5 p.m, the classes will not be held for the whole day. I will go to my office whenever the classes are over. This apart, whenever I need to be at the office, I take permission from my college,” she says.
- Name of Councillor: Nilavarasi Durairaj
- Party: DMK
- Age: 24
- Educational Qualification: B. Com, MBA
- Contact: 9445467136 / 9444958481
Primary goals for Ward 136 in Chennai
As the Councillor for Ward 136 in Chennai, what have you been able to achieve in the past year?
Every year, during the monsoon, the Rajamannar Salai in KK Nagar will be flooded. It will take four or five days for the water to drain. I will say my biggest accomplishment is in ensuring functional stormwater drains are installed in these areas, thanks to the officials who were also very helpful. Now the water drains immediately when it rains. Stormwater drains have been made functional in most of the areas in Ward 136.
There have also been a lot of changes in garbage disposal in many areas. Notably, in areas like Rani Anna Nagar the residents of the Tamil Nadu Urban Habitat Development Board used to throw garbage in the gaps between the two buildings. So, there were small garbage dumps inside the tenements. After we started cleaning those dumps, the residents also reduced the practice of throwing garbage between the buildings. Most of them are segregating the waste and handing over the garbage to the sanitary workers.
Stormwater drain work causes a significant inconvenience to the public. How did you handle that?
The whole area where we were installing stormwater drains was in and around Arcot Road. We had to make some traffic diversions. When PT Rajan Salai was made one-way, it caused more traffic congestion. We were barricading the pits dug for stormwater drain work and were very cautious. However, the initial days were tough. We had to plan the work in such a way that we started late at night and completed the work by around 6 a.m. So far, we have completed the work in almost every major area, with only a few parts yet to get stormwater drains.
How do you interact with the constituents of Ward 136 in Chennai? What kind of outreach activities have you held so far?
My contact number has been shared with the constituents of Ward 136 in Chennai. I also go to the field regularly to listen to the grievances of the public. In my absence, there are two people in my office who will attend to public complaints immediately. We also coordinate with the officials from various departments and take steps to resolve the issues raised by the residents. The formation of Area Sabha has also helped a lot as we have more personnel to handle the issues at the ward level.
Issues in Ward 136 in Chennai
What are the major issues in Ward 136 in Chennai? What kind of measures have you taken for this?
The major issue here was water stagnation during rains. We have sorted this out to a greater extent as I mentioned before. Sanitation has been another major issue in TNUHDB tenements. We have worked on that too.
At this point, the major issue in Ward 136 is the inconvenience caused by metro rail construction. In some places, the drainage lines are being affected due to metro rail work. We are resolving the issues as and when the complaints are raised. We are hoping such complaints won’t arise after the metro rail construction is completed.
How have you used your Ward Development Fund of Rs 35 lakhs?
The fund released in the first year was utilised for park development. We have playfields and parks in every sector of Ward 136 in Chennai. These places were grounds for anti-social activities. We made these parks usable for the public now. This has reduced the anti-social activities in such places.
We are planning to do rainwater harvesting at the parks with the funds for this year. At present, the rainwater gets stagnant inside the parks. We have to drain the water from the parks using motors. Instead, we are planning to utilise the part of the Ward Development Fund for rainwater harvesting in the parks.
Being one of the youngest Councillors in Chennai, what are your thoughts on young people coming into politics?
I think that youngsters are welcomed into politics more than ever now. When I assumed office as the Councillor of Ward 136, I feared that the other council members would not consider my opinions as I am a woman and because I am young. To my surprise, they all gave me a warm welcome and took my views into consideration. I think this is the right time for youngsters to come into politics.
You earlier made promises for women’s development in Ward 136 in Chennai. What have you done on that so far?
The women constituents in my ward asked for skill development classes and employment opportunities. Following their request, we have conducted an employment camp. We are also planning to conduct upskilling training for women in the coming days.
I am also working on ensuring women’s safety in my ward. Poorly lit streets give rise to a sense of fear, especially in women. Streetlights are a major issue not only in my ward but also across Chennai. We have repaired some streetlights and we are planning to ensure that all the streets are well lit.
Vision for Ward 136 in Chennai
What do you hope to achieve in your term as Councillor?
Ward 136 is one of the smaller wards in Chennai. It mostly consists of residential areas. By the end of my tenure, I would like Ward 136 in Chennai to be a model ward where all the civic amenities are in place. Even if there are issues, I want the complaints to be attended to immediately and resolved.
What is your vision for Chennai?
I have always wanted to see more ease of commuting in Chennai. With the metro train facilities, there is good connectivity now. Though the metro rail construction for phase 2 causes a lot of inconvenience to the public now, I believe, that when the construction is completed, the connectivity will improve and the traffic congestion will be reduced significantly.
The Greater Chennai Corporation is also focusing on improving the greenery and the beauty of the city. I hope Chennai will become a fine space to live in with all these initiatives.
What the residents of Ward 136 in Chennai say:
Ranjan Kumar, a resident of Virugambakkam in Ward 136 in Chennai says that the major issue in the ward is the traffic congestion. “Ever since the work for metro rail construction began, the roads have become more dangerous than ever with high traffic congestion. Basic amenities such as water and sewage pipelines are frequently damaged when the roads are dug for different reasons,” he says.
“Not only does the traffic congestion affect the motor vehicle users, the vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists are also affected the most,” says Varun, a resident of the ward. Pointing out that KK Nagar was the first place in Chennai to have the first dedicated space for non-motorised transport (NMT) users, he says that the cycle lanes have vanished now. “It is filled with potholes and cannot be used at all,” he says.