Chennai floods: India anger over Jayalalitha stickers on aid

A flood-affected couple sits along a flooded roadside under a picture of Jayalalithaa Jayaram, chief minister of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, in Chennai, India, Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Relief workers allege that they are being forced to paste stickers of Ms Jayalalitha on aid material

Controversy has erupted over the distribution of aid in the flood-hit south Indian city of Chennai (Madras).

Relief workers allege that they are being forced to paste stickers of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayaram Jayalalitha on aid coming into the city.

The allegations have caused widespread anger in the city which was largely submerged by the floodwaters.

Ms Jayalalitha's party, the AIADMK, has denied the reports and promised action against "errant" party workers.

At least 280 people have died in floods in the state since last month and a massive relief operation is continuing to get food and medicines to tens of thousands of people. Many residents are still living in shelters.

A social media post about how volunteers were being forced to add stickers of Ms Jayalalitha, known as "Amma" or mother in the state, went viral over the weekend.

Amma stickers

"Many of my friends who had gone to Cuddalore with relief materials complained that thugs and goons are forcibly pasting Amma stickers on every box and only then clearing the vehicles," the post on Facebook said.

A group of volunteers from social organisations also told BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi that a local politician told them that "people will not accept the food and milk packets without the photo of the chief minister".

In other areas, relief workers were not allowed to distribute aid until the local minister arrived.

"In Padikuppam [a Chennai suburb], our volunteers were asked to wait until the minister came. We waited for almost three to four hours but the minister did not turn up,'' Magesh Kumar, a spokesperson of the Lok Satta party, told BBC Hindi.

A local reporter from Chennai told the BBC that a company which had sent a consignment of drinking water to Chennai was asked to pay five rupees per bottle if they did not paste Amma stickers on them.

The latest allegations, compounded with disenchantment with what many have called Ms Jayalalitha's "absence" during the floods, have led to an outpouring of resentment on social media.

Apart from angry posts, people began creating and sharing memes and tweets that mocked the chief minister.

Image copyright Twitter
Image caption An example of one of the memes about relief work in Chennai
Image copyright Twitter
Image copyright Twitter

However, the AIADMK has asked people making allegations against party workers to provide proof, so that they can take action against them.

The party issued a statement reiterating that it had not issued any order to workers to paste stickers of Ms Jayalalitha on aid material.

It even went to the extent of saying that if anyone provided "video or voice" evidence, the party would initiate action against those who were misusing the chief minister's name.

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