Monday, October 31, 2011

Traders fret as Chennai Port sleeps over surcharge

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 31, 2011:
CHENNAI: Despite the exim traders in South India coughing up over Rs 200 crores in the name of ‘Chennai Trade Recovery’ surcharge for sending or receiving their containers via Chennai Port to vessel operators in the last two-and-half months alone (besides usual charges), Chairman of the port trust Atulya Misra is yet to take a concrete action to solve the burning issue.
Though the port management organised a meeting of all stake holders on Saturday to persuade the vessel operators to stop collecting CTR from traders henceforth, it turned out to be a farce at the end of the day as the port officials were reluctant to understand the bleeding conditions of traders and representatives responsible for withdrawing CTR failed to make it to the meeting.
Irked over the port trust’s attitude in the meeting that was primarily called to break the deadlock on the issue, a representative of traders’ community told Express that the port management, even after three months and Rs 200 crore extra money to foreign companies by traders, was yet to understand what was congestion and how it could be solved.
When reporters asked Atulya Misra about CTR surcharge during a function on Sunday, he remained evasive and said the port management has written letters to the Shipping and Commerce ministries about the issue.
There is no congestion in the port now and the collection of CTR by vessel operators is illegal. We hope the issue would be solved soon,” Misra said.
According to traders, the port management should be proactive on the issue and such poser would only solve the problem. When the same congestion problem emerged in 2006, the then chairman of port trust K Suresh literally warned the vessel operators to withdraw CTR surcharge or face the consequences by losing priority berthing at Chennai Port.
His proactive role bore good results and all the vessel operators, fearing berthing problems at the Chennai port, immediately withdrew their CTR surcharge making all traders happy. That kind of proactive action is needed from Atulya Misra to solve the issue,” Mukundan, a regular user of the port said.
All these CTR charges are being collected in the name of Chennai Port and the management is yet to gauge the magnitude of the problem and due to the delay in solving it, its name and reputation gets a beating in other countries, he added.
Despite getting berthing on time in the last two days, two container ships, MSC Levina and Tiger Shark have collected CTR from traders.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

SCI in a spot over possible security pass misuse

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 30, 2011:

CHENNAI: Barely a few weeks away from the third anniversary of (26/11) Mumbai attacks, sailing community in the west coast has issued an early warning to the national carrier Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) on a possible misuse of security passes issued by the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) to SCI’s sailors to gain entry into its high-security off-shore oil installations.
According to sources, ONGC has hired the services of SCI to maintain its 30-odd offshore support vessels (OSVs) used for highly secured oil platforms and rigs. The SCI has utilised the services of seafarers to run those vessels and all of them were given special security passes by the ONGC (after proper endorsement by the SCI) for entry and exit from its facilities.
While the SCI claims to have a foolproof system to maintain records about issuance of security passes to hundreds of seafarers working with the oil major’s OSVs, one of the seafarers union alleged that the SCI failed to track all those passes issued earlier and that were still with the workers even after completing their contract with the ONGC.
“Given the callous attitude of SCI, we see a new but credible threat to ONGC’s oil installations,” a member of a well-known seafarers union told Express seeking anonymity. “If the security passes get into the hands of anti-nationals, nobody knows what would happen to the oil rigs,” the member warned.
The union also demanded that the system of depositing the security passes while signing off from ONGC contract be introduced, so that the threat perception could be neutralised.
When contacted, a senior SCI official in Mumbai rubbished all these news as mere rumours by a section of seafarers.
Kailash Gupta, SCI’s director (Personnel and Admin), said, “We have all records of seafarers who were given special security passes, vessel-wise and crew-wise in the past and ONGC is also in the possession of those details for cross verification.”

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Exim trade bleeds at Chennai Port

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 29, 2011:
CHENNAI:  Export and import of various products in containers via Chennai Port has been badly affected for the past two months after a number of vessel operators had imposed ‘Chennai Trade Recovery’ (CTR), a hefty trade surcharge, to cope with their forced delays at the port. 
Though the CTR surcharge was imposed on  traders after reports of congestion in the port two months ago, it’s still being collected from all importers and exporters even after the congestion has ‘officially’ gone.
According to traders, the surcharge of 200 USD (over Rs 10,000) per container (Twenty-foot-equivalent-TEU) has robbed them off their profits and most of them are considering discontinuance of the trade from Chennai Port as it has become unviable.
In the overall exports done in containers via ChPT, about 60 per cent exports constitute the low-profit category and prices of those products are determined in international markets and bound by delivery commitment.
Due to levy of CTR, most of the low-profit exporters have been left in the lurch and they are continuing their trade only to keep their commitment to overseas clients. Items like maize, chillies, onion and groundnut (agricultural products), feldspar, quartz stone and granite rough blocks (minerals), chemical and coir products are exported from Chennai Port regularly.
Future for traders like us is bleak as the surcharge has taken away the profits and many of us have seriously started thinking to get out of the business,” Kumar, an exporter of coir products to European countries, told  Express from Tiruchy.
Even if vessel operators had imposed the trade surcharge on exporters to minimize their losses due to forced and unscheduled halts at the Chennai Port, it was the primary duty of the Port Trust management and the Commerce Ministry to regulate it, but both of them have failed to take any initiative so far to force the operators to withdraw the CTR, lamented Kumar.
While holding the Chennai Port Trust management fully responsible for the CTR surcharge, various chambers representing the traders told Express that the chairman of ChPT, Atulya Misra, has the power to stop CTR at once and his swift action would only bring the much-needed relief to the trade via Chennai Port.
“Bad roads and the ChPT’s poor planning to evacuate containerised cargoes created the congestion and because of that, vessels are forced to wait either at anchorage or at the wharf to offload containers more than the stipulated period,” a traders’ association representative told Express.
When contacted, Chennai Port Trust chairman Atulya Misra said that the surcharge had been levied by the operators on exporters and the management was not responsible for the same.

CHENNAI: For councillor, It’s the biggest day in his life

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 29, 2011:
CHENNAI:  For AIADMK’s 145th Ward councillor P Benjamin, Friday was a historic day in his life as party  chief and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa announced his name for the prestigious Deputy Mayor post in the Chennai Corporation.
It’s a dream come true for me. I will make a mark in my career with Amma’s blessings,” Benjamin told ‘Express’ after being nominated to the post.Forty-two-year old Benjamin is the son of a retired Indian Air Force personnel and had studied BA in History. Father of two sons, Benjamin lives at Nolambur, a newly-added area in the expanded Chennai Corporation. 
Though I missed a chance to contest from Maduravoyal constituency in the Assembly elections on an AIADMK ticket after the seat went to an alliance partner, Amma gave me a chance in the Chennai Corporation elections and made me a councillor,” said Benjamin. In the local body elections, Benjamin defeated his nearest rival, Allenraj of the MDMK, by over 700 votes.
According to local party functionaries, Benjamin joined the AIADMK in 1988 and has held different positions. Prior to becoming the councillor, Benjamin was the party’s secretary in Villivakkam union for about 10 years.

Picnic over after 3 decades, Corpn breathes easy

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 29, 2011:
CHENNAI: It was a historic day for the city Corporation and its Commissioner D Karthikeyan on Friday after the civic body was finally able to reclaim its 13.5 grounds of land from Hotel Picnic after three decades of legal wrangling.
It’s a historic day for the Corporation as we are able to reclaim the land that was in legal dispute for over three decades,” jubilant Karthikeyan told Express.
With the apex court’s deadline to hand over the land to the Corporation ending on Thursday evening, the hotel management returned the land to the civic body quietly on Friday. After the Supreme Court’s clear direction, the hotel authorities had removed all valuables from both the buildings in the premises.
Victoria Public Hall Trust, which enjoyed the civic body’s 57 grounds of land on a 99-year lease since 1886 (on a rent of eight annas per ground per annum), granted a sublease of 13 grounds and 1,720 sqft) for a period of 18 years from April 1, 1968 to N D Gupta to set up a hotel.
Irked over the inside deal that violated the basic conditions in the 1886-lease document, the  Corporation filed a suit in 1968 in a city civil court, challenging the sub-lease granted by the board of trustees.
In the same year, it also rejected an application for the grant of a licence to run a hotel on the premises. But the refusal of the Corporation to grant a licence to run a hotel was set aside in a writ plea moved by Gupta and he was allowed to start a hotel there. The legal battle that started in 1968 continued all these years and few weeks back, the SC gave its clear verdict to the management to hand over the land to Corporation as it has plans to use it for a public purpose. The land was handed over to the Chennai Metro Rail Ltd.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

humanitarian intervention needed for jailed monk Ashin Gambira

An Open Letter from the Asian Human Rights Commission to the President of Myanmar/Burma U Thein Sein
President of Myanmar
President Office
Office No.18 Naypyitaw, Myanmar
Dear Mr Thein Sein
MYANMAR: Urgent humanitarian intervention needed for jailed monkI am writing to you with an urgent humanitarian request concerning the current conditions of detention for Shin Gambira, a monk whom, as you will be aware, was imprisoned for his part in street demonstrations during 2007.
The Asian Human Rights Commission has been concerned about Shin Gambira's health since we received information that he had been assaulted at the during a prison transfer and that he had been assaulted repeatedly at the Khandi Prison over the course of about a month, due to which he has been suffering from head and back injuries.
According to prisoners released from Kalay Prison on October 12, due to these injuries, Shin Gambira is suffering from fits, in which he frequently cries out in pain and clutches at his head. 
The prison authorities then have to hold him down to administer a drug via injection, perhaps a sedative, after which he goes quiet and falls unconscious. When he comes out of unconsciousness, he slurs his speech.
From these reports, we conclude that both the physical and mental health of this detainee is in a very precarious situation indeed. 
While maintaining the position that Shin Gambira ought to be released from prison without delay, as he has in our opinion committed no offences for which he deserves to be imprisoned, I urge you, regardless of other factors, to look into the case and arrange for his prompt transfer back to a facility in Yangon where he can receive appropriate treatment and also be close to his family.
The question of detainees' health is, as you know, a humanitarian matter that transcends political issues. We trust that you will consider this case in that spirit and look forward to your prompt intervention. We also take this opportunity to again urge that the International Committee of the Red Cross be given unimpeded access to all places of detention in Myanmar in accordance with its international mandate.
Yours sincerely,
Wong Kai Shing
Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

CHENNAI CORPORATION: Jaya frowns on idolisation

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 26, 2011:
CHENNAI: Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday turned tutor to a newly-elected AIADMK councillor, C Selvam, (Ward-2 in Thiruvottiyur zone) after he fumbled with right choice of words while taking the oath of office at Ripon Building.
When Selvam was asked to take oath of office, he, instead of using the customary words ‘... do swear in the name of God’, said ‘... do swear in the name of Amma - kaaval deivam.’ Noticing the mix-up of words, the CM intervened and asked Selvam to take the oath once again in front of Commissioner D Karthikeyan and told him to use only those words given in the swearing-in format.
Barring K P Shankar, a DMK councillor from Ward-5, who is in prison on murder charges, all other 199 newly-elected councillors, including 24 DMK members, took the oath of office.
AIADMK members booed down a Congress and a DMK councillor during the oath-taking ceremony when they used their party leaders’ name (Kalaignar and Annai Sonia Gandhi) during the proceedings.  Karthikeyan came to the rescue of both and appealed to the AIADMK councillors to maintain the decorum of the council.
First Announcement
At the end of the swearing-in ceremony, the new Mayor, Saidai S Duraisamy, announced that garbage removal in the city would be taken up on a war-footing. Express on Tuesday had carried a story on pile up of garbage across the city.

Mayor walks the talk, visits flooded areas

CHENNAI: With complaints of water logging from different parts of the city pouring in at the Corporation helpline, Mayor Saidai S Duraisamy, along with civic body officials, toured the affected areas near Rangarajapuram in T Nagar Assembly segment and ordered local Corporation officials to speed up work on removing stagnated water.
In his first visit to a site as the Mayor, Duraisamy met the local residents at Parangusapuram, a low-lying area in Rangarajapuram locality, and directed the Corporation officials to remove the stagnated water using high-powered motors.

Chennai gets its 1st AIADMK Mayor

Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 26, 2011:
CHENNAI: Opening a fresh chapter for the ruling AIADMK in the Chennai Corporation, the party’s Saidai S Duraisamy on Tuesday morning assumed charge as Mayor at the Ripon Building. His work seemed cut out even on day-1, as pouring rains in the morning inundated several parts of the city on Tuesday.
While the mood inside the Council Hall of the Corporation was jubilant, it was anything but that for the hundreds of motorists who had to wade through knee-deep water stagnated on most arterial roads and low-lying areas in the city after the torrential rains overnight. Most commuters were seen fuming over the lethargic attitude of the Corporation authorities in draining out the water.
Chief Minister J Jayalali­thaa, who was at Ripon Building, along with a group of ministers and MLAs, especially to witness the swearing-in of her party’s first ever Mayor, Duraisamy,  warmed the hearts of the 168 newly elected AIADMK councillors with her presence.
After administering the oath of office to Duraisamy, Chennai Corporation Commissioner D Karthikeyan handed over the ceremonial sceptre to the new Mayor, marking the beginning of his rule over the city.
Duraisamy then sought the blessings of Jayalalithaa, who sat to his left, along with Speaker D Jayakumar.
Six AIADMK councillors also took the oath of office in Jayalalithaa’s presence and touched her feet, seeking her blessing for their new role.
Outside, besides the flood, the police too played wet blanket, stalling entry to even journalists with proper entry passes, at every checkpoint.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

GIFT TO CHENNAI MAYOR:Neel Metal Chaps make a stinking statement

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 25, 2011:
CHENNAI: Even before taking up the mantle of Mayorship in Chennai, AIADMK’s Mayor-elect Saidai S Duraisamy has received a Deepavali ‘gift’ from Neel Metal Fanalca — a city stinking with heaps of garbage.
An unannounced mass absenteeism, over unpaid Deepavali bonus, by Neel Metal Fanalca’s (NMF) 2,500-odd employees for more than a week coupled with the new assignment for the Corporation’s 10,000-odd sanitary workers during the civic body elections has created garbage mounds across the city.
NMF is responsible for removing garbage from four zones — Triplicane (zone-6), Adyar (zone-10), Kodambakkam (zone-8) and Pulianthope (zone-3). While, civic body staff are entrusted with the remaining six zones.
However, garbage removal operations have been hit for the last two weeks in those four zones, as NMF workers began striking seeking immediate disbursement of Deepavali bonus.
NMF management convinced workers to return to work and promised payment within a week.Later, it backtracked from its promise and asked its employees to get their bonus in two installments afterward.
When bonus was not released even after the second promise, NMF workers refused to go on the streets, resulting in garbage pile up at several locations.
Since a sizable number of the Corporation’s sanitary staff were roped in as ‘support staff’ during civic body elections, garbage removal in the other six zones (except VIP areas and posh localities) has also been hit.
NMF sources said, the on-field strength of staff has dwindled to 200 against the actual strength of 2,500.
NMF has been able to move only about 400 metric tonnes of garbage during the last two weeks against its daily average of over 1,700 mt. Sluggish work by civic body’s sanitary staff  (after elections) has also added to the problem.
Though authorities have deployed its men and machinery to remove tonnes of garbage piled up at NMF’s four zones, the city is still stinking of garbage.

Jaya to attend Chennai Mayor’s swearing-in

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 25, 2011:

CHENNAI: Elaborate  arrangements have been made at the Ripon Building, Chennai Corporation’s headquarters, to host the swearing-in ceremony of AIADMK’s Saidai S Duraisamy as the Mayor of the city on Tuesday. The ruling AIADMK, for the first time in the Corporation’s 323-year history, won the prestigious post.
Security has been beefed-up as Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and a posse of her ministers are expected to witness the ceremony at the Council Hall at 11 AM.
A special police squad sanitized the building in the morning. According to Corporation sources, Ripon building has been provided with five-tier security cover for Jayalalithaa and her ministers. Separate pandals have been erected on the building lawns to host relatives of the newly-elected 200 Councillors, who will also take oath on Tuesday.
Jayalalithaa will become the second Chief Minister in office to visit the Ripon Building premises over the last two decades.
In October 1996, then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi along with his family members visited the Ripon building to witness the swearing-in ceremony of his son M K Stalin as the first directly elected Mayor of  the Corporation.
Meanwhile, a senior AIADMK party functio- nary and the Finance Minister O Pannerselvam visited the building in the evening and inspected the arrangements. However, it is still  not clear whether the 24 DMK Councillors will attend the ceremony.
To welcome the new Mayor Duraisamy and the 200 councillors, Ripon Building has been decorated with bulbs and festoons.

CHENNAI Corporation’s Council Hall renovated and ready

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 25, 2011:
CHENNAI: The Chennai Corporation’s Council Hall has undergone a sea change. Not only has the hall been renovated to welcome the new Mayor, but it has also been equipped with additional seating arrangement for councillors.
After the recent expansion of the city, the number of councillors has gone up to 200 from the earlier 155. The renovation has been completed and the historic House is all set to host the installation of Saidai S Duraisamy of AIADMK as the new Mayor on Tuesday.
According to sources, the swearing-in ceremony is expected to start by 10 am and the Commissioner D Karthikeyan is to administer the oath of office to Duraisamy as Mayor. Duraisamy would become the third directly elected (by people) Mayor of the Chennai Corporation; the DMK’s M K Stalin was voted directly to the coveted post twice in 1996 and 2001.
Duraisamy would also become the first Mayor of the expanded Chennai Corporation. The city civic body’s limits have gone up from 174 square kilometres to 426 sq km recently.
While the renovation of the Council Hall was part of the Rs 7.70 crore grant under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) for the whole Ripon Building, setting up of an additional 45 seats to accommodate all councillors was necessitated after the recent expansion of the city Council. Corporation authorities had roped in the Tamil Nadu Small Industries Corporation (TANSI) to provide additional seats.
While space has been made available for all the 200 councillors in the cramped hall, officials of the civic body, who used to sit inside the Hall to assist the Commissioner during any query raised by the councillors, have been moved out. They will now  sit in the adjoining room and view the proceedings of the House on a television screen. 
The zonal officers, heads of various departments and officials from Metro Water, Housing Board and Slum Clearance Board used to attend the meeting that is held every month. Besides, seats of MLAs and MPs have also been relocated. In the new system, they would be accommodated on the right side of the Mayor and Commissioner’s seats. The two rows have now been allocated to councillors.

Monday, October 24, 2011

CHENNAI CORPORATION: They have promises to keep

By G Saravanan & Saptarshi Bhattacharya
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 24, 2011:
CHENNAI: The first AIADMK Mayor of Chennai, Saidai Duraisamy, has had a decisive mandate in the just-concluded elections. It’s now time to deliver. His party boss and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa set a challenging agenda before him for the city’s development during the run up to the polls. For his part, Duraisamy said he would do his best to live up to her expectations and deliver on her promises of a clean city and a clean administration. “As per the instructions of Amma, I would concentrate on fulfilling all requirements of basic amenities of the people on a war footing,” he told Express over phone.
But look at the challenges before him. While a clean and transparent administration depends solely upon the leadership, a clean city is something that is not easy to achieve.
The Chennai Corporation is yet to find a solution to its garbage woes. In the last regime, the private party involved in removing garbage from parts of the city, Neel Metal Fanalca, an Indo-US joint venture company, drew flak for poor performance. A dissatisfied Corporation Council recommended gradual withdrawal of operation. A new agency is to be selected through tenders for clearing garbage from January 1, 2012. Going by past experience, a total solution to the garbage problem would be a tall order.
Given the AIADMK’s thumping majority in the Corporation Council - 168 seats out of a total of 200 – you can safely assume that proposals for projects would get the green light. But after the recent expansion of the city from 174 sq km to 426 sq km, the challenge would be to improve the infrastructure, especially the roads, lanes and bylanes of the areas recently brought under city limits.
A total of 42 local bodies, municipalities and town panchayats were merged with the Chennai Corporation area to extend the city limits. But basic amenities like good roads, systematic garbage removal, sanitation and school infrastructure in these areas are not on par with the rest of Chennai Corporation. Bridging the gap will not be easy.
While systematic garbage disposal is in disarray in the city, it has been worse in the areas that were merged recently. In most of these local bodies, dumping of garbage had been a contentious issue as they are fast running out for space. There is no space either at the pre-merger Corporation either as its two dumpyards - Perungudi and Kodungaiyur - are full. Besides, the civic body is also on a sticky wicket over the implementation of scientific disposal of garbage mandated under the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000.
The smaller version of the city produced 3,200 metric tonnes of garbage everyday, as per Corporation records. The extended areas would only add to its woes. A few years ago, an attempt by a group of local bodies led by the Ambattur Municipality to create a dumpyard at Kuthambakkam village attracted vociferous protests from the residents.
Yet another area that needs immediate focus is public health and sanitation. Malaria is a perennial problem with thousands of patients getting infected each year. Besides, the menacing mosquito bites cannot be wished away. Cleaning up the waterways and preventing stagnation of water alone can check mosquito breeding. Is that doable in the short term?
The list of problems faced by people in the city is endless. The task ahead for the new Mayor and the Council would be to identify them, prioritise and set a deadline for implementation. Singara Chennai remained a dream. Would Ezhilmigu Chennai become a reality?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

CHENNAI CORPORATION: Edayanchavadi’s new honour

Pics by P Jawahar
By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 22, 2011:
CHENNAI: Call it history in the making or simply a stroke of luck. Whatever you choose to call it, it is a new recognition for about 200 families in Edayanchavadi, a tiny desolate village located on the banks of Kosathalayar River in Minjur limits.
The village, along with a few more villages within the Edayanchavadi Village Panchayat limits, officially became part of the historic Chennai Corporation recently.
For the village, which lacks all basic amenities, including proper supply of drinking water, primary health centres and sanitation, the recognition has opened up opportunities. The village has become the Chennai Corporation’s northern boundary in the expanded city.
While the elderly residents of the tiny village were skeptical about speedy implementation of any development work on a par with other parts of the city, the young brigade in the village was jumping  with joy on becoming a part of the capital city and its Corporation, which has a chequered history of 323 years.
The locals used to say ‘I am going to Madras and will return in the evening’. The usage will fade slowly in future as the village has very much become a part of the city,” P Suresh Babu, a youngster of the village, told City Express.
After its merger with the city, the entire Edayanchavadi Village Panchayat has become a part of Ward 15 of the Chennai Corporation.
“Until the 1990s, villagers had vast tracts of farmland and most of the families survived on farming and other cultivation works in the fields due to the sustained flow of water in the Kosathalayar river. But the scenario changed swiftly after the advent of private companies into the area, which bought their arable lands for setting up establishments to serve the nearby Ennore Port,” said M Rose, an elderly resident of the otherwise sleepy village.
Most of the residents in the village work as labourers in the neighbouring companies and a few families are engaged in milk and curd businesses.
Though the tiny village is located just one kilometre from the Thiruvotriyur-Ponneri-Panchetti (TPP) High Road, it is completely delinked from the network. It has never had an MTC bus coming into the village for decades.
For medical emergencies, the locals rely on share autos and private vehicles to reach hospitals located at Thiruvotriyur.
When asked for his view on his village becoming a part of the Chennai Corporation, M Srinivasan, a shop owner in the village, said, “As the village lacks basic amenities like other areas that were recently merged with the Corporation, the authorities of Chennai Corporation should look to develop them in a speedy manner.”

AIADMK gets thumping majority in Corporation Council

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 22, 2011:

CHENNAI: Continuing its winning streak, AIADMK on Friday recorded an impressive win in the Chennai Corporation Council elections as the party was able to bag 168 wards out of a total of 200.
While the DMK was able to win only 24 seats, the Congress bagged two seats and the PMK, DMDK and MDMK came victorious in one each. Thirumavalavan-led Viduthalai Chiruthaigai Katchi (VCK) recorded its first win in the Chennai Corporation by winning a seat.
Two independent candidates have also made it to the Corporation Council.
In the last Chennai Corporation Council, the DMK had 93 members, Congress 35, PMK 13, DMDK 4, Bahujan Samaj Party 1, Communist Party of India 2, CPIM 1, MGR Kazhagam 1, Tamil Maanila Desiya League 1 and two seats were represented by independents. Two seats were vacant.
While four of the AIADMK’s candidates won the elections in 2006, Jayalalithaa asked them to resign from their posts in protest against the violence that marred the polls. Two of the members obeyed the party high command’s diktat and resigned, while the other two switched allegiance to the DMK.
While it was a surprise victory for PMK in Ward 15 as the party fared poorly in the Chennai Corporation polls, the DMDK, which was touted to be a dark horse to win more than 10 wards in the Chennai Corporation, was restricted to just one. The party’s nominee A V Arumugam won the Ward 20 by a thin margin.
Party Sweeps Suburban Chennai
AIADMK has won in most civic bodies in suburban Chennai, including the Tambaram Municipality (M Karikalan), the gateway to the city. The party  emerged victorious in municipalities of Pallavaram (Nizar Ahmed), Pammal (Elangovan CV) and Maraimalai Nagar (Gopi Kannan). It also won the post of chairman of Town Panchayats of Chitlapakkam, Madambakkam, Sembakkam, Peerkankaranai, Mamallapuram and Sriperumbudur.

Ripon building in Amma’s pocket

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 22, 2011:
CHENNAI: It was a double whammy for the ruling AIADMK in the Chennai Corporation, as the party’s Mayoral candidate Saidai S Duraisamy wrested the prestigious seat from DMK with a margin of over five lakh votes. The party for the first time in the civic body’s
history has won 168 seats (out of 200) in the Corporation Council.
Since the trends started coming in at the Loyola College Counting Centre in the morning, Duraisamy maintained a healthy lead over DMK’s M Subramanian.
His numbers were on an upward trajectory until the results were out in his favour at 9.45 pm.
Duraisamy polled a whopping 12,40,340 votes and defeated his nearest rival from DMK, M Subramanian with a huge margin of over 5.19 lakhs.
Of the total 21 lakh votes polled, Subramanian got 7,20, 593 votes, DMDK’s G Velmurugan secured 1,42, 203 votes and PMK’s A K Moorthy garnered only 47,327 votes in the recently expanded Corporation.
Though Duraisamy witnessed the counting of votes at Loyola Centre in the morning, he visited the other counting centres and returned to Loyola only in the evening after his victory was almost certain. District Election Officer D Karthikeyan announced the results and handed over the Certificate of Election to Duraisamy in the presence of the party’s MLAs and ministers.
Speaking to reporters after winning the coveted post, Duraisamy said, “It’s Amma’s victory. My first priority is a clean administration and clean Chennai."
Amma has given us a roadmap for making Chennai a clean city and we will be implementing it wholeheartedly,” Duraisamy told reporters amidst thundering applause. He soon left for a victory rally. Apart from Duraisamy and Subramanian, all the other Mayor aspirants, 30 in all, lost their deposits.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

ChPT ducks from giving info on curbing pollution

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 20, 2011:

CHENNAI: Chennai Port Trust’s decision not to disclose the expenditure incurred to control pollution from handling of coal inside its premises in response to an RTI query has raised doubts among its employees of possible fund embezzlement by the management.
In an RTI plea filed by R Santhanam, general secretary of the Port and Dock Labour Union, an affiliate of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) avoided giving a direct answer and vaguely replied: “The details (of expenditure) are being verified and will be sent in due course (to the petitioner).”
Besides other queries, Santhanam in his RTI petition had asked the ChPT to disclose its monthly collection of levy for handling coal as well as expenses towards minimising pollution due to coal handling inside the port since 1991. Though the petitioner sought the financial details since 1991, the port management had disclosed only the month-wise breakup of levy collected for coal handling since 2008, till July this year as Rs 24.33 crore.
“When the management was able to ‘verify’ and give the levy collection details for three years, I do not understand why it was avoiding the expense details to its employees,” Santhanam questioned.
About Rs 25 crore has come into the ChPT’s coffer as levy in the last three years, but no one knows what has happened it, which was primarily meant to minimise pollution due to handling of coal,” he said.
In reply to another query about names and designation details of 482 port and contract employees working at the coal yard (as disclosed by the management to Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board under Form-II for obtaining permission), the ChPT once again vaguely replied that numbers only have been identified.
While our union did a physical verification at the coal yard, we haven’t seen any presence of such huge number of employees working at the yard there,” Santhanam said. With the reply from the management not satisfactory, he has moved an appeal with the Appellate Authority in the Port.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

முள்ளிவாய்க்காலில் நின்ற நேரடிச் சாட்சி மீனா: அவுஸ்திரேலியாவில் மகிந்தர் கைதாவாரா ?

Meena Krishnamoorthy, eye-witness to war crimes (pic courtesy

இறுதிப் போர் நடைபெற்றவேளை அவுஸ்திரேலிய தமிழ் பிரஜையான திருமதி மீனா கிருஷ்னமூர்த்தி தனது நேரடிச் சாட்சியத்தைப் பதிவுசெய்துள்ளார். அவருடன் டாக்டர் சாம்பவியும் இணைந்து அவுஸ்திரேலியாவில் 3 பேருக்கு எதிராக வழக்கு தொடுக்க முனைப்புகளைக் காட்டியுள்ளனர். இதனை அவுஸ்திரேலியாவின் முன்னணி தேசிய தொலைக்காட்சியான எ.பி.சி ஒளிபரப்பியுள்ளது. சுமார் 9 நிமிடம் ஒளிபரப்பப்பட்ட இந்தக் காணொளியால் அவுஸ்திரேலிய மக்கள் ஆடிப்போயுள்ளனர். மீனா தனது அனுபவத்தை விவரிக்கையில் தாம் முள்ளிவாய்க்கால் வரை சென்று எவ்வாறு உயிர்பிழைத்தேன் எனக் கூறியுள்ளார். வைத்தியசாலைகளை நோக்கி இலங்கை இராணுவம் ஏவிய ஏவுகணைகள் தொடக்கம் கடலில் நின்ற இலங்கைக் கடற்படையினர் தம் மீது தாக்குதல் நடத்தியது தொடக்கம் இவர் விவரித்துள்ளர்.

இலங்கையின் முன்நாள் கடற்படை தளபதி தற்போது அவுஸ்திரேலியாவுக்கான இலங்கைத் தூதுவராக இருக்கிறார். இவருக்கு எதிராகவும் இலங்கை மற்றும் அவுஸ்திரேலிய இரட்டைக் குடியுரிமை பெற்ற பாலித கோகன்னவுக்கும் எதிராகவும் மற்றும் தற்சமயம் அவுஸ்திரேலியா செல்லவிருக்கும் மகிந்தருக்கு எதிராகவும் அவர் பொலிசாரிடம் முறைப்பாடு செய்துள்ளார். அவுஸ்திரேலிய சமஷ்டிப் பொலிசார் இந்த முறைப்பாட்டை ஏற்றுக்கொண்டுள்ளனர் என்பது இலங்கைக்கு பேரதிர்ச்சியாக உள்ளது. அதுமட்டுமல்லாது அவர் கொடுத்த முறைப்பாட்டை விசாரிக்கவும் அவர்கள் ஒத்துக்கொண்டுள்ளனர். இதனை அடுத்து அவுஸ்திரேலியாவின் தேசிய தொலைக்காட்சி 9 நிமிட நிகழ்ச்சி ஒன்றையும் நடத்தியுள்ளது. அதில் போர் குற்றத்துக்காக இலங்கையின் ஜனாதிபதி மகிந்தரை விசாரிக்கவேண்டும் என்ற கோரிக்கையும் முன்வைக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது.

நடைபெறவிருக்கும் காமன்வெலத் நாடுகளின் உச்சி மாநாட்டில் கலந்துகொள்ள மகிந்தர் விரைவில் அவுஸ்திரேலியா செல்லவுள்ளார். இந் நிலையில் மீனா கிருஷ்னமூர்த்தி அவர்கள் ஒரு தனியாளாக அதுவும் ஒரு பெண்ணாக இருந்துகொண்டு நடைபெற்ற கொலைகளுக்கு நீதிவேண்டும் என பாடுபடுகிறார். குறிப்பாகச் சொல்லப்போனால் அவருக்கு இதுவரை உதவ எவரும் முன்வரவில்லை. சிறிய உதவிகளே கிடைக்கப்பெற்றுள்ளது. அதனை வைத்தே அவர் இவ்வளவு தூரம் நகர்ந்துள்ளார். அவுஸ்திரேலியாவில் தமிழர்கள் அதிகம் இல்லை என்ற காரணமும் இதில் அடங்கும். ஒரு பெண்ணாக இருந்து தன்னலம் பாராது இவர் துணிச்சலுடன் செயல்படுகின்றமைக்கு அதிர்வு தலைவணங்குகிறது. அத்தோடு ஐரோப்பாவில் வாழும் தமிழர்கள் இப் பெண்ணுக்கு தம்மாலான எல்லா உதவிகளையும் செய்யவேண்டும் என நாம் கோரிக்கை விடுக்கிறோம். இலங்கை கடற்படையினர் தாக்குதலில் யாராவது இறந்திருந்தால் அவர்களின் உறவுகள் இப் பெண்ணுடன் தொடர்புகொண்டு தம்மாலான உதவிகளைச் செய்யலாம்.

தற்போது அவர் வழக்கை நடத்த தமிழர்கள் நிதி உதவி செய்யலாம். அமெரிக்காவில் மகிந்தருக்கு பிரச்சனை பிரித்தானியாவிலும் அவருக்கு பிரச்சனை, சுவிஸ் நாட்டை எடுத்தால் ஜகத் டயஸ் நாட்டை விட்டு தப்பி ஓடினார். தற்போது அவுஸ்திரேலியாவிலும் வழக்கைப் போட மீனா கிருஷ்னமூர்த்திக்கு உலகத் தமிழர்கள் உறுதுணையாக இருக்கவேண்டும். அவர் கரங்களைப் பலப்படுத்தவேண்டும் இதன் மூலமே மகிந்தர் பொதுநலவாய நாடுகளின் உச்சி மாநாட்டிற்கு செல்லாது தடுக்க முடியும். அவர் அதில் கலந்துகொள்ள முடியவில்லை என்றால் இலங்கைக்கு பாரிய அழுத்தம் ஒன்று உருவாகும் என்பதில் சந்தேகமில்லை. தனி ஒரு ஆளாக கஷ்டப்படும் மீனாவுக்கு உதவுங்கள் மக்களே !

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CHENNAI: Campaigning goes on even after phase-I

By G Saravanan
Published in The New Indian Express, Chennai on October 19, 2011:
CHENNAI: Though campaigning and polling for the post of Chennai Mayor ended on Monday, Mayoral contestants from the DMK, PMK and DMDK have continued their ‘campaign’ on Tuesday as well; only that this time, the audience was different.
In contrast to their campaigns, atop vehicles, M Subramanian, sitting Mayor, from the DMK, A K Moorthy of the PMK and G Velmurugan of the DMDK met the TN State Election Commissioner S Ayyar separately on Tuesday afternoon. They submitted a list of allegations of rigging and booth capturing at many polling booths in the elections held on Monday.
Subramanian and Moorthy also moved petitions at the HC seeking justice on the alleged booth capturing and rigging.
Party sources said that, Subramanian has spent most of his time since Monday evening collecting evidence to present before the SEC. Moorthy also spent most of his time post-elections preparing for the ‘campaign’ in front of the SEC.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fukushima victims:homeless,desperate and angry

A worker of an office cleaning company monitors the level of radiation at a playground of an elementary school in Fukushima, northern Japan August 6, 2011. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao
By Yoko Kubota FUKUSHIMA, Japan, Oct 18 (Reuters) - At last, victims of Japan's nuclear crisis can claim compensation. And they are angry. 

They are furious at the red tape they have to wade through just to receive basic help 
and in despair they still cannot get on with their lives seven months after the huge quake and tsunami triggered the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years. 

   Shouts fill a room at a temporary housing complex where seven officials, kneeling in their dark suits, face 70 or so tenants who were forced to abandon their homes near the Fukushima nuclear plant after some of its reactors went into meltdown after the March 11 quake struck. 
   "We don't know who we can trust!" one man yelled in the cramped room where the officials were trying to explain the hugely complex procedures to claim compensation. 
   "Can we actually go back home? And if not, can you guarantee our livelihoods?"
   About 80,000 people were forced to leave their homes by the nuclear crisis
   While the owner of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, has made temporary payments to some victims, it was only last month that it finally began accepting applications for compensation.  
   But the procedure is so complicated that it seems to just make things worse. 
   After claimants have read a 160-page instruction manual, they then have to fill in a 60-page form and attach receipts for lodging, transportation and medical costs. 
   "It's too difficult. I'm going to see how it goes. I don't want to rush and mess up," said Toshiyuki Owada, 65, an evacuee from Namie town, about 20 km (12 miles) away from the plant. 
   Owada is one of many who still has not applied for compensation even though they have lost jobs or businesses and are running out of cash.  

   The complexity of the task is one deterrent.  
   There is another -- the perception that Tepco is not playing fair.  
   Confidence in the authorities is low. The government is seen as having bungled its early response to the crisis and being secretive about what was really happening. 
   Tepco is accused of failing to take sufficient safety measures at the Fukushima plant even though it knew the risks and then deliberately underplaying the extent of the accident. 
   It is also seen as insensitive. 
   One clause in the original instruction booklet telling victims they would have to agree to waive their right to challenge the compensation amount in order to receive payment provoked a public uproar. 
   Chastised by the government, the company promised to drop the clause, issued a simplified 4-page instruction booklet and assigned 1,000 employees to Fukushima prefecture to help victims with the process. 
   "There may be times when the content is difficult to understand or in some cases our employee in charge may not grasp it fully, but we would like to explain and respond as carefully as possible," said Tepco spokesman Naoyuki Matsumoto. 
   A government panel overseeing the compensation scheme estimates claims are likely to reach 3.6 trillion yen ($46.5 billion) in the financial year to next March. 

   But so far just 7,100 individuals have applied to Tepco for compensation out of the 80,000 it send forms to. 
   And of the 10,000 businesses in the Fukushima area, a mere 300 have submitted claims. 
   The company expects a total of 300,000 claims from businesses given that the impact of the radiation crisis has been so widespread. 
   Victims can sue but that is rare.   
   Junichi Matsumoto, a Tepco official, said the utility faces about 10 lawsuits so far. He declined to disclose details but said some were seeking more than the firm deemed appropriate. 
   Yuichi Kaido, an attorney and the secretary-general of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, said lawsuits are considered a last resort in conservative rural northeast Japan. 
   "In the end, many lawsuits could take place," he said. 
   "But the majority is thinking of first speaking with Tokyo Electric or seeking mediation . " 

   The final compensation depends on whether and when victims will be able to return to homes within a 20-km evacuation zone. That question remains unanswered, breeding a growing sense of resignation among evacuees.  
   Some said they doubt they will ever be able to go home and suggested their entire towns simply be relocated and many worry about long-term health effects of radiation. 
   An Asahi newspaper poll showed this month that 43 percent of evacuees still want to return, down from 62 percent in June. 
   For many, what is now on the table -- reimbursement for moving and transportation costs associated with evacuating, compensation for damage to health, lost jobs, and psychological suffering -- only deepens frustration over what they have lost. 
   Tokyo Electric said it will pay about 100,000 yen a month for the period to end of August as compensation for psychological trauma. After that, the sum will be halved. 
   "Evidence that we have lived our lives is completely destroyed and for that, we are told that we will be compensated 100,000 yen for our psychological suffering. That's it?" said 75-year-old restaurant owner Sumiko Toyoguchi, who had to leave her home in Namie. 
   "What's at the root of our frustration is that we cannot see what our tomorrow will be like." ($1 = 77.365 Japanese Yen) 
 (Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Jonathan Thatcher)