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Friday, May 01, 2009

Beset with agrarian issues and poor development

Kallakurichi: The Kallakurichi Lok Sabha seat, a newly-formed constituency, is a typical example of what ails rural Tamil Nadu. It is characterised by agrarian problems and low level of economic development.

Shortage of farm labour coupled with growing demand for higher wages is the common problem faced by small and medium farmers, who raise paddy. Several cane farmers are sore at “unremunerative” State Advised Price for sugar cane.

Absence of a railway network in Kallakurichi town and drinking water shortage at Attur in Salem district are among the problems. In view of limited scope for employment, the youth go to urban areas, especially Bangalore.

D.Mahalingam of Moorar Palayam, who owns five acres near Sankarapuram, and Mohammed Ali, a cane farmer of Kallakurichi town, wonder why the government has not come forward to set up new sugar mills in cooperative or public sector while the number of private mills is on the rise.

Unemployment will be tackled effectively if there are more public or cooperative sugar mills, they stress.

P.Govindan, president of the water users’ association at Mathur in Kallakurichi block, is aware that mechanisation holds the key to the problem of labour shortage. More encouragement has to be given to small and medium farmers to use machines. He would be happy if harvesting machines are in place for sugar cane, too, as in the case of paddy.

What bothers K.Sudanthara, village panchayat president of Madhavacheri in Villupuram district, is that many persons have not yet realised the value of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. “It can be used for transforming our villages. For example, our water resources can be revitalised… Unfortunately, there is a perception that it is just a means for making quick money.”

At the political level, an interesting battle is on the cards between two erstwhile allies, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Pattali Makkal Katchi.

The DMK has fielded one-time Member of Parliament of Cuddalore Adhi Sankar. The PMK’s nominee is K.Dhanaraju, MP representing the now-defunct Tindivanam constituency.

There are a number of other contestants in the fray such as L.K.Sudish of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam and Vijaya T.Rajendar of the Latchiya Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Both Mr.Adhi Sankar and Dr.Dhanaraju are drawing flak from voters. Inaccessibility of the DMK nominee and obstructive attitude of the PMK candidate towards the Kallakurichi railway project are the charges being made against them. However, both deny the charges. Mr.Adhi Sankar explains his achievements during his previous tenure (1999-2004) and recalls that all the villages were given funds from the MP Local Area Development Scheme.

Dr.Dhanaraju says the problem in the delay in the implementation of the railway project in Kallakurichi is actually due to the dispute over the alignment. Though he does not prefer any specific alignment, he has made it a top priority for implementation.

Mr.Sudish promises to make the area a leading trading centre. Mr Rajendar favours the extension of the proposed railway network up to Tiruvannamalai.

When Mr.Adhi Sankar’s candidature was announced early this month, the response of the local Congress was initially lukewarm.

A section of the Congress cadre openly opposed it. However, the differences seem to have been overcome and S.Sivaraj, Congress Member of Legislative Assembly representing Rishivandiyam, says his party will work for the DMK nominee.
Strong points

The State government’s schemes of rice at Re.1 a kg and distribution of free gas stoves are the DMK’s strong points.

DMDK leader Vijayakant is still a draw among the youth, especially in rural areas. However, the odds appear to be in favour of the PMK nominee, given the political arithmetic and the desire among certain sections of voters for a change.

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