19 October 2004 National

Veerappan's killing is my government's greatest achievement: Amma

Chennai, Oct 19 (PTI) Describing the killing of forest brigand Veerappan and his associates by the Tamil Nadu STF last night as the "greatest achievement" of her government, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa today announced out of turn promotions and cash award to each of the 752 STF personnel involved in the operation against the brigand.

"The police have not let me down. Once again they have added to the glory of the Tamil Nadu Police force," Jayalalithaa told a press conference here.

Jayalalithaa announced out of turn promotions to the next grade, cash award of Rs three lakh and housing plots to the STF personnel.

Giving credit to the Tamil Nadu STF for killing the brigand, Jayalalithaa said the operation against Veerappan was carried out by the Tamil Nadu STF in Tamil Nadu area.

"There was a big contribution made by Karnataka police also over the years. This particular operation was carried out in Tamil Nadu by Tamil Nadu STF. Karnataka Chief Minister Dharam Singh spoke to me this morning and congratulated me. I thanked him for all the cooperation rendered by Karnataka police and Karnataka government," she said.

"When K Vijayakumar, chief of STF, Tamil Nadu, informed me about the killing of Veerappan last night, I felt that it was very good news for me after taking over as Chief Minister in 2001," Jayalalithaa said.

Jayalalithaa said the STF had complete operational freedom during her tenure as Chief Minister.

"My only brief to them was capture Veerappan dead or alive. After that I never interfered. I left them to work out their own strategies and this paid off," she said.

Asked whether many "political secrets might have died" due to the killing of the brigand and his associates by the STF, she said "well that cannot be helped. We have rid the society of the big menace. Now the people of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka can live in peace," she said.

Having a dig at the previous DMK Government, she said the previous government did not "really" disband the STF but it had happened "in effect."

STF was there only for namesake, which allowed Veerappan to gain strength, she alleged adding during her earlier tenure as Chief Minister from 1991 to 1996, STF clashed with Veerappan and his men 28 times and his strength had been reduced from over 100 persons to just five.

In 1996, Karunanidhi, after becoming Chief Minister, never allowed the STF to function, she charged. This had emboldened Veerappan to abduct Kannada matinee idol Rajkumar, she said.

To a question whether the STF would be disbanded as it had accomplished its task, Jayalalithaa said it was yet to be decided.

Asked why Veerappan was not caught alive, she said she could not answer "this sort of criticism now. In the first place, the person best qualified to answer this question is Vijayakumar. These sort of questions are all loaded with insinuatory statements and I must say that it is rather unfortunate that questions in such a tone and tenor is being raised today."

She said right from the formation of STF in Tamil Nadu, everybody had made a contribution towards capturing Veerappan. At one time former DGP Dawaram was heading the force and at another time it was R Natraj, present Police Commissioner of Chennai."All of them have done ground work and contributed immensely to this victory," she said.

Asked whether the government would offer any solatium to Muthulakshmi, widow of Veerappan, she said "from all available reports, she is well settled financially. Veerappan has seen to it that she is well provided for. I do not think she requires any sympathy at all."

On the expenditure incurred by STF in its operations against Veerappan, she said it was roughly around Rs 50 crore. There was a report that the government spent Rs 1,500 crore, she said, adding "I do not know from where they get such figures."

Praising the STF personnel, she said all the 752 had volunteered themselves to be part of the STF. They remained separated from their families for long and lived in abnormal conditions in the forests. "We cannot underestimate their sacrifices," she added.

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OUTLOOK 19 October, 2004