Friday, May 29, 2009

Villagers give 15-day ultimatum

Published Date: 28/5/2009 - (NIE)

G Saravanan

Chennai, May 27: THE Kuthambakkam villagers have given a 15-day ultimatum to the State government to reconsider its decision of to allot 100 acres of grazing land to municipalities for dumping solid wastes.

“We won’t let our green locality become a garbage-dumping yard for the adjacent municipalities at any cost,” the villagers said. Located 50 km from the city, Kuthambakkam is surrounded by several nonpolluting industries. The area falls under the catchment area of Chembarambakkam Lake, one of the main sources of drinking water for South and Central Chennai.

“We plead the government to give up the idea, as its implementation would pollute the nearby Chembarambakkam Lake besides affecting sanity and livelihood of over 5,000 families in the neighbourhood,” R Elango, the former panchayat president of the village who is spearheading the movement said.“If they fail to come out with a decision, we will sit on a fast-unto-death in front of the Gangaiamman Temple in the village,” the residents said.

The State Government has proposed to handover the land to six municipalities – Ambattur, Thiruverkadu, Valasaravakkam, Maduravoyal, Porur and Poonamalle – to dump solid waste. The opposition to the allotment gains weight as a reply sought under RTI application from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board revealed that an inspection committee (mooted after municipalities sought No Objection Certificate for the proposal) earlier concluded that the site (Kuthambakkam) may not be suitable for dumping waste due to its proximity with Chembarambakkam Lake.

Though the agency had issued a noobjection- certificate to Ambattur Municipality for acquiring the site, it had clearly underlined that the order may not be construed as a consent, a prerequisite for implementing heavy environment impact projects.On Wednesday, it was a show of people’s strength. Over 500 residents of Kuthambakkam panchayat and Vellavedu panchayat staged a dharna at the Gangaiamman Temple premises.


Published Date: 3/12/2008 - (NIE)

G Saravanan

Chennai, December 2: Pandemonium prevailed for a few hours in front of Ambattur Municipality on Tuesday when about 4,000 people protested against the inordinate delay by the authorities in carrying out relief measures to nearly one and half lakh rain-affected people in the locality.

S Sekar, general secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Ambattur, told reporters after the protest that more than 1.5 lakh people from Cholapuram, Kalyanpuram, Kamarajapuram, Teachers Colony, K K Nagar, Uzhaipalar Nagar, Sivananda Nagar, Gandhi Nagar, M K B Nagar, Mogappair, Korattur, Pattaravakkam, Mangalapuram, Thirumullaivoyal, Chozhampedu, Ayapakkam and Ayanampakkam were severely affected by the rains and floods. “Most of them were stranded insides homes in chest-deep water,”he added. Though the governme nt had immediately anno unced compensation for the rain-hit people, nothing had reached them, Sekar said. “We demanded that the government announce Rs 5 lakh for those who lost their houses and Rs 10,000 along with 50 kg rice and 10 litre kerosene for people, who partially lost their houses and belongings,” he added.

To pacify the agitators, revenue department official Wilson asked them to furnish the detail of their losses in writing to deliver relief measures accordingly. CPM FOR MORE: CPM State Secretary N Varadarajan on Tuesday asked the Chief Minister to raise the compensation for the victims from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh and also Rs 5,000 for damaged houses

Ban ends; don’t expect fish prices to fall

Published Date: 30/5/2008 - (NIE)

Sarvanan G

Chennai, May 29: WITH the 45-day ban on deep sea fishing coming to an end on Thursday midnight, the expected nosedive of fish prices once the mechanised boats return with their catch will not happen this year. This is what the boat owners have to say: It is all due to phenomenal hike in essential commodities’ rate in recent months, which has its cascading effect on its allied products like seafoods.

Since Thursday morning, Kasimedu Fishing Harbour was abuzz with activity as labourers of different boats were busy storing icebars and other essential ration items, including the muchneeded diesel, before setting out on a week-long sea trip. Venugopal, general secretary of Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association at Kasimedu, says, “The current fish prices will not see any steep fall as expected by seafood consumers, in fact the slide from the current price will be around five to 15 per cent only.”

And it may be due to the steady price rise in other food products, including rice and edible oil, he notes. Moreover, the rise in prices of essential items for fishing, like various types of nets, will also affect the pricing mechanism once the catch arrives at the harbour in a week’s time, another boat owner says. Kasimedu Fishing Harbour is home to nearly 700 mechanised fishing boats and deep sea fishing trawlers, besides a large number of catamarans and fibre boats.

The quantum of daily fish catch handled at the fishing harbour is around 110 tonnes and nearly 60 per cent of them get exported to other states and abroad. For mechanised boats, the government allots 1500 litre of diesel per month at a subsidized rate, but a boat which ventures out to deep sea fishing requires 10,000 litre a month and we have to buy the 8500- odd litres from open market, and it will have a cascading effect on fish prices too, Rajendran, a boat owner remarks.The fresh fish catch by the mechanised boats is expected to reach in the first week of June, but going by the boat owners’ words, fish price will not see a fall at least for a month.

Corporation school students prove their mettle

Published Date: 24/05/2009 - (NIE)

G Saravanan

Chennai, May 23: BRAVING all odds to prove that the civic body-run schools can also bring in excellent results every year, the Corporation school children have secured a pass percentage of 82.5 in the SSLC examinations that were declared on Saturday and incidentally, the figure was higher than the over all State pass percentage this year. Not only the Corporation schools secured more (pass) percentage this time, they also improved their performance by a whopping three per cent when comparing to last year pass figures. Interestingly, Agalya Tharani, a student studying in Nungambakkam Corporation Girls Higher Secondary School, missed the State first rank by a whisker of six marks. Her physically challenged father works as a chemistry teacher in the same school.

Adding feather to its cap, Kilpauk Corporation Higher Secondary School, which sent 86 students for SSLC examinations in March, obtained a cent per cent result. Mayor M Subramanian who greeted the Corporation school toppers at Ripon Buildings here on Saturday told reporters that for the first time the class 10th results have touched an all time high of 82.5 per cent. During March last, 9009 students including 5091 girls appeared for the board exams. The girls as usual outshined boys and recorded a pass percentage of 85.5 per cent and boys recorded only 78.7 per cent. Besides 15 students secured centum in Mathematics and seven students obtained maximum marks in Science. The Mayor had announced earlier, 924 students who have secured more than 400 marks will be given cash awards of Rs 1,000 each . As per the budget announcement, school toppers will be taken for an educational tour to parts of north India, Mayor Subramanian said.

Student Agalya Tharani of Nungambakkam Corporation School came first among the Corporation school toppers securing 490 out of 500. Daughter of a tailor, student Zarina Begum of Buddha Street Corporation Girls School came second with a total of 484. P Aparna of Nungambakkam Corporation School came third with 482 marks. Her father is a makeup man based in T Nagar. Following Kilpauk Corporation School, corporation higher secondary schools at Teynampet and Wall Tax Road bagged the second and third spots among the civicbody run 65 schools.


Published Date: 22/5/2009 - (NIE)

G Saravanan

Chennai, May 21: IT was just another day for 32-year-old Murugan, a construction worker from suburban Kallikuppam area, when he left home for masonry works at a flat near Mogappair, here. As he stood on bamboo post, plastering on the second floor of a newly constructed building, he lost balance and fell. He suffered fracture and spine injuries. He is yet to get compensation.

Six months have gone by, his parents and two small children are struggling to eke out a living, as the sole breadwinner is now bedridden. Not only Murugan, there are several construction workers in the State who suffer from unsafe work conditions at worksites besides issues related to less salary, says V Ranganathan, general secretary of Akila India Kattida Thozilalargal Mathya Sangam.

While we blame the poor safety setup at construction sites, many workers never thought of registering their names with the state-government instituted Construction Labour Welfare Board to claim any compensation during extreme situations, he added.

Had he registered with the welfare board, Murugan could have received some compensation from the government, Ranganathan said. According to R Geetha, president of Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, Tamil Nadu, the State alone has an estimated 35-40 lakh construction workers falling under 38 types of works. But official figures from the welfare board say only 19.40 lakh construction workers have registered.

They were classified under 38 sub-categories including mason, senior helper, painter, plumber and shuttering persons, junior helpers and carpenters, just to make them eligible for different schemes announced by the state government. “Besides the safety issue, we used to get complaints about underpayment for workers, but the latter one is more prevalent among migrant labourers from Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar,” Geetha says.

It is due to the role of agents in bringing them in for big projects in the state. While labourers say that both safety and less wage are burgeoning issue among them, state’s Labour Commissionerate say they did not receive a single complaint on both the issues from any construction worker so far.

According to a top official, while there were no complaints from individuals, they do receive five to 10 complaints every month, mainly from construction workers’ related unions on safety issues and not on low wages. Compulsory registration for construction labourers would entitle them to claim benefits such as compensation and scholarships for their children, opined Geetha.

Forced ‘vacation’ puts them in a tight spot

Published Date: 22/05/2009 - (NIE)

G Saravanan

Chennai, May 21: WHILE the owners of mechanised trawlers and fibre-boat owners use the mandatory 45-day fishing ban period to repair their boats and nets, fishermen who are employed by them are the worst affected as they do not have any fixed source of income during that period.

Bustling activities off shore comes to a standstill during the period at the Chennai Fishing Harbour at Kasimedu (in North Chennai) as more than 800 mechanized fishing trawlers and 1,200 small fibre boats get anchored to honour the state-enforced ban on fishing to protect the fish eggs.

During the period, activities increase on shore as trawler owners engage different people to set their boats in order for the next voyage once the ban gets over. Since catamarans are exempted from the ban, traditional fishermen move freely along the coastline during the period to catch small fish varieties.

In the harbour alone, more than 8,000 fishermen are directly and indirectly involved in the fishing activities and a majority of them are from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and places down south coastal districts.

Though a few of them, residing in and around Kasimedu and Royapuram areas opt for seasonal works at the construction site and net repair works, most (of them) return to their native place to spend time with family members.

“During the ban period every year, I used to assist my mother, who runs a mobile tiffin shop near Royapuram market,” Mahendran, a fisherman attached to a mechanised trawler told Express. Like Mahendran, a section of young fishermen in the locality (said to be around 1,500) do odd jobs in the city to make both ends meet, and many elders stay at home.

Besides, fishermen who were employed in trawlers also opt for rod-fishing using catamarans during the period as the little boats are exempted from the ban. While many fishermen try to eke out a living with the paltry income from these short-term jobs, a few tide over these using advance money borrowed from boat owners.

“Most of the fishermen are illiterate, they fail to get any good jobs during the period, and that is why we started educating them about the importance of saving money,” said K Bharathi, South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association.

Lankan Tamil detainees languish in spl camps

Published Date: 18/04/2009 - (NIE)

G Saravanan

Chennai, April 17: EVEN as the world expresses its solidarity and anguish for the suffering of the Sri Lankan Tamils trapped in the conflict zone across the Palk Strait, no one - not even the smalltime politicians in the State - have tried to understand the agony of the Sri Lankan Tamils, who have been detained in State-run special camps under flimsy grounds for years.

According to sources, two such special detention camps for Lankan Tamil refugees -- Poonamalle and Chengalpattu -- have nearly 100 Tamils, allegedly detained for having links with the banned outfit, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Speaking to Express, one of the Tamil detainees said that they were denied of basic human rights. “Though most of us wanted to clear our names legally, we never got an opportunity, since the police officials were not co-operative,” the detainee added. “Most of the members are not connected to the LTTE and its activities.

When a Sri Lankan Tamil was arrested, the first task of the Q Branch was to ‘create circumstantial evidence’ to show that the person was linked to the LTTE, and used by the organisation to procure materials in Tamil Nadu for them,” said S Manoharan, a lawyer who represented a few victims in the Madras High Court.

“If you accept that they were indeed connected to LTTE, they should have been convicted. But no one in the camp was convicted,” Manoharan added. Sources said that Q-Branch took a long time to file charge sheets against them.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The trauma continues

R Gomathy Sankaravel | Fri, 08 May, 2009 , 02:12 PM
Two years have gone since 9 May 2007. But the shock, horror and pain have not for the families of three persons who were killed in the Dinakaran newspaper office attack in Madurai.

A family member of a victim Gopi, on condition of anonymity, said ‘Gopi’s death was not only savage, but was also filled with horrifying details which come over and over again on our minds. We can only express grief.’

Police had arrested many people in connection with the arson and mob violence while one was detained in connection with the deaths, he said. Later under attack from various quarters on the Madurai police inaction, the Tamilnadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi sought a CBI probe into the attack. But everything seems to be ‘customary’, he added.

‘The case is being heard by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court’, he said,adding that he wanted to transfer the case to the Madras High Court. But it has been put in cold storage,’ he said.

Citing the Tha Krittunan murder case, he said that the muscle and money power had taken the course of action favourable to the accused. At the time of attack, sibling rivalry in the ruling DMK had been at its peak and now they come together with an ‘understanding’, he further said.

‘Ultimately, we have lost our lovable and valuable one’, he said. ‘We are neither bold nor rich enough to challenge the accused and hence I can only do is leave it to God’. It is to be noted that Gopi’s father Gokuladoss has been hospitalised quite often after the incident. Certain opposition parties plan to take this issue during election campaign in the days to come.

It may be recalled that the supporters of DMK leader M K Azhagiri, elder son of Chief Minister K Karunanidhi, allegedly attacked the daily’s office and set it afire protesting against the survey on who would be Karunanidhi’s ‘possible political heir’. The survey was published in Dinakaran. The survey showed that 70 per cent preferred Chief Minister’s younger son M K Stalin while two per cent wanted Azhagiri.

In the attack, two computer engineers, Gopi (30) and Vinodh (25) were trapped inside the room when the attackers locked it after hurling the bombs and the two died of asphyxiation. The body of the security personnel Muthuramalingam (40) was found in the UPS room of the office. It is impossible for them to get over the grief, anger and loss while the wheels of justice are slow.