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Cyclone Vardah damages over 7,000 Huts and Power infrastructure: Tamil Nadu Government asks for Rs 1,000 Crore for Relief and Reconstruction

Cyclone Vardah damaged over 7,000 huts and power infrastructure with Tamil Nadu government asking for Rs 1,000 crore for relief and reconstruction

Policemen remove a tree that fell on a road after it was uprooted by strong winds in Chennai, India, Dec. 12, 2016. VOA

Chennai, December 14, 2016: Chennai residents woke up to uprooted trees/big branches blocking the roads, fallen name boards and hoardings, damaged walls and vehicles under fallen trees, power cuts and lack of milk supplies on Tuesday, a day after Cyclone Vardah ripped through the city and killed 16.

The cyclone also damaged over 7,000 huts and power infrastructure with Tamil Nadu government asking for Rs 1,000 crore for relief and reconstruction.

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While the cyclone-hit residents have now become accustomed to closed ATMs, it was a rude shock to many when hoteliers and shopkeepers declined to accept card payments citing non-working point of sale terminals owing to network failure.

“There was no power at home and no milk. So we decided to go to a hotel and have brunch. However the hotel said they are not accepting card payments as the swipe machine was not working. We had to come back home to have a home-cooked meal,” K. Muralidharan, a public sector employee told IANS.

Similar was the experience of V.Revathi, a home maker who had to pay up the scarce cash she had when she had to purchase a bucket and a rope to draw water from her well as the power was not there.

“The central government must think of natural calamities when taking major decisions that have large impact on people like demonitisation. There is neither real money nor plastic money with us,” P. Kumar, a private sector employee, told IANS.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O.Panneerselvam in a late night statement said the cyclone killed 16 and announced a solatium of Rs 400,000 each to their families.

He had also requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to release a sum of Rs.1,000 crore as “on account payment” from the National Disaster Response Fund for relief and reconstruction activities.

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Panneerselvam told Modi that more than 10,000 electric poles have been mangled and more than 800 transformers damaged in Chennai, Kanchipuram and Thiruvallur districts.

People in the residential localities after being awed by the damage caused by the cyclone started cleaning their compound of fallen trees, leaves and other muck that was blown by the cyclonic winds.

“It is as if we are in the midst of a forest,” quipped A. Viswanath, a businessman surveying the fallen trees in his locality.

Over 12,000 trees were felled by cyclone in Chennai and its suburbs. In the Chennai city alone it was over 4,000 trees.

Panneerselvam said conservancy staff from other districts have been brought to clear the trees and other garbage.

In a statement issued on Monday, Panneerselvam said over 4,000 trees fell.

According to citizens, the number could be much more if one takes into account the trees inside the residential compounds and the parks.

Meanwhile the municipal corporation is also removing the fallen trees from roads.

In areas not reached by corporation officials, residents themselves cut the branches of fallen trees creating space for movement on the roads.

Around 200 students of Ramakrishna Mission Home here actively lent an helping hand to the residents of different localities by clearing the trees fallen on the roads.

“Divided into small groups, we went to different localities and cleared the roads of fallen trees,” a student told IANS.

The student group that IANS met were very enthusiastic about their mission, with one of them eagerly detailing the work they had done since morning.

While bus services were resumed, it would take some more time for the services to become normal as the routes have to be cleared of trees.

At the spot where former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa was buried at the Marina beach, the canopy remained intact despite the cyclonic winds.

Several sand bags were lined up surrounding the burial spot to prevent flooding.

The burial place continued to get stream of visitors from early morning.

The cyclone has affected power generation at North Chennai Thermal Power Station’s (NCTPS) 600 MW Unit 1, the Power System Operation Corporation Ltd (POSOCO) said.

According to POSOCO, two other units of NCTPS (one 600 MW and another 210 MW) went out of operation on Monday, and it is not known when they will resume generation.

The NCTPS Unit 1 was hand tripped due to heavy winds on Monday morning while the second 600 MW unit stopped due to electrical problem.

The reason for stoppage of 210 MW unit at NCTPS is awaited, said POSOCO.

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Similarly, the two 220 MW units at Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS), too, stopped operating on Monday evening due to tripping of power evacuation lines, POSOCO said.

In a statement, MAPS Station Director R.Satyanarayana said that due to high speed cyclonic wind, the 230 KV power lines tripped one after another.

“As power evacuation from station was not possible, both the units were tripped and brought to safe shut down state,” he said, adding that in three days, both the units would be brought back to service once the 230 KV power lines are normalised.

In the evening however, power supply was restored in some localities in Chennai.

Cyclone Vardah is the first natural disaster after O. Panneerselvam took over as the state Chief Minister and the administration seems to have passed the acid test, people felt. (IANS)

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee: A Peace Visionary and a Man Who Believed in India’s Destiny and was Ready To Fight For It

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee -- one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it -- that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India's peace visionary. Image: Flickr

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a man of moderation in a fraternity of jingoistic nationalists; a peace visionary in a region riven by religious animosity; and a man who believed in India’s destiny and was ready to fight for it.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (93), who died on Thursday, will go down in history as a person who tried to end years of hostility with Pakistan and put development on the front burner of the country’s political agenda. He was also the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full five-year term.

Even though he lived the last 13 years of his life in virtual isolation, dogged by debilitating illnesses and bedridden, he has left an enduring legacy for the nation and the region where he was much loved and respected across the political spectrum and national boundaries, including in Pakistan.

Vajpayee, former Indian Prime Minister
Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the tumultuous period he presided over the destiny of the world’s largest democracy, Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state and then almost went to war with Pakistan before making peace with it in the most dramatic fashion.
In the process, his popularity came to match that of Indira Gandhi, a woman he admired for her guts even as he hated her politics.

He also became the best-known national leader after Indira Gandhi and her father Jawaharlal Nehru.

After despairing for years that he would never become Prime Minister and was destined to remain an opposition leader all his life, he achieved his goal, but only for 13 days, from May 16-28, 1996, after his deputy, L.K. Advani, chose not to contest elections that year.
His second term came on March 19, 1998, and lasted 13 months, a period during which India stunned the world by undertaking a series of nuclear tests that invited global reproach.

Although his tenure again proved short-lived, his and his government’s enhanced stature following the world-defying blasts enabled him to return as Prime Minister for the third time on October 13, 1999, a tenure that lasted a full five-year term.

When finally he stepped down in May 2004, after an election that he was given to believe he would win, it marked the end of a long and eventful political career spanning six decades.

Vajpayee had gone into these elections riding a personality cult that projected him as a man who had brought glory to the nation in unprecedented ways. The BJP’s election strategy rested on seeking a renewed mandate over three broad pillars of achievement that the government claimed — political stability in spite of the pulls and pressures of running a multi-party coalition; a “shining” economy that saw a dizzying 10.4 percent growth in the last quarter of the previous year; and peace with Pakistan that changed the way the two countries looked at each other for over 50 years.

The results of the elections could not have come as a greater shock to a man who was hailed for his achievements and who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 influential men of the decade.

Success didn’t come easily to the charismatic politician, who was born on Christmas Day in 1924 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, into a family of moderate means. His father was a school teacher and Vajpayee would later recall his early brush with poverty.

He did his Masters in Political Science, studying at the Victoria College in Gwalior and at the DAV College in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he first contested, and lost, elections. He began his professional career as a journalist, working with Rashtradharma, a Hindi monthly, Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly, and two Hindi dailies, Swadesh and Veer Arjun. By then he had firmly embraced the ideals of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
But even as he struggled to win electoral battles, his command over Hindi, the lingua franca of the North Indian masses, his conciliatory politics and his riveting oratory brought him into public limelight.

Also read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

His first entry into Parliament was in 1962 through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. It was only in 1971 that he won a Lok Sabha election. He was elected to the lower house seven times and to the Rajya Sabha twice.

Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975 and put her political opponents in jail. When the Janata Party took office in 1977, dethroning the Congress for the first time, he became the foreign minister.

The lowest point in his career came when he lost the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, that too from his birthplace Gwalior, after Rajiv Gandhi won an overwhelming majority following his mother Indira Gandhi’s assassination. And the BJP he led ended up with just two seats in
the 545-member Lok Sabha, in what looked like the end of the road for the right-wing party.

In no time, Vajpayee was replaced and “eclipsed” by his long-time friend L.K. Advani.
Although they were the best of friends publicly, Vajpayee never fully agreed with Advani’s and the assorted Hindu nationalist groups’ strident advocacy of Hindutva, an ideology ranged against the idea of secular India.

Often described as the right man in the wrong party, there were also those who belittled him as a moderate “mask” to a hardline Hindu nationalist ideology. Often he found his convictions and value systems at odds with the party, but the bachelor-politician never went against it.

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee — one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it — that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum. It was this trait that made him the Prime Minister when the BJP’s allies concluded they needed a moderate to steer a hardliner, pro-Hindu party.

He brought into governance measures that created for India a distinct international status on the diplomatic and economic fronts. In his third prime ministerial stint, Vajpayee launched a widely acclaimed diplomatic initiative by starting a bus service between New Delhi and Pakistan’s Lahore city.

Its inaugural run in February 1999 carried Vajpayee and was welcomed on the border by his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif. It was suspended only after the 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament that nearly led to a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The freeze between the two countries, including an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation on the border for nearly a year, was finally cracked in the spring of 2003 when Vajpayee, while in Kashmir, extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan. That led to the historic summit in January 2004 with then President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad — a remarkable U-turn after the failed summit in Agra of 2001. Despite the two men being so far apart in every way, Musharraf developed a strong liking for the Indian leader.

His unfinished task, one that he would probably rue, would be the peace process with Pakistan that he had vowed to pursue to its logical conclusion and a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

He was not known as “Atal-Ji”, a name that translates into firmness, for nothing. He could go against the grain of his party if he saw it deviate from its path. When Hindu hardliners celebrated the destruction of the 16th century Babri Mosque at Ayodhya, he was full of personal remorse for the apocalyptic action and called it — in a landmark interview to IANS — the “worst miscalculation” and a “misadventure”. He even despaired that “moderates have no place — who is going to listen to the voice of sanity?”

In his full five-year term, he successively carried forward India’s economic reforms programme with initiatives to improve infrastructure, including flagging off a massive national highway project that has become associated with his vision, went for massive privatisation of unviable state undertakings despite opposition from even within his own party.

While his personal image remained unsullied despite his long innings in the murky politics of this country, his judgment was found wanting when his government was rocked by an arms bribery scandal that sought to expose alleged payoffs to some senior members of his cabinet. His failure to speak up when members of his party and its sister organisations, who are accused of killing more than 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat, was questioned by the liberal fraternity who wondered aloud about his secular proclamations. He wanted then Chief Minister — now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi — to take responsibility for the riots and quit but was prevailed upon by others not to press his decision.

A day before his party lost power, Vajpayee was quoted as saying in a television interview that if and when he stepped down he would like to devote his time to writing and poetry. But fate ruled otherwise. The man who once rued that “I have waited too long to be Prime Minister” found his last days in a world far removed from the adulation and attention — though across the nation people prayed for his well-being — surrounded only by care-givers and close family whom he even failed to recognize. (IANS)