Saturday, Sep 18, 2021

Chennai Corner

The Stalin and Azhagiri rivalry was in full display in Madurai this week when two separate meetings had to be held for the “jail bharo” agitation

Chennai Corner
Chennai Corner

Advantage Sangma

It’s going to be 37,192 votes for Sangma as against 35,536 votes for Pranab Mukherjee out of the total 81,540 votes from TN. And that means, that although Pranab Mukherjee is all set to be India’s next President, in this state it will be advantage P. A. Sangma, because it was CM Jayalalitha who first backed his candidature along with Odisha CM, Naveen Patnaik, and later lobbied for support from a cross section of leaders. In fact, her intervention when BJP leader L K Advani came to Chennai recently, won the day for him after former President A P J Abdul Kalam backed out rather than face a contest.

Jayalalitha, who is currently in her house in the hills at Kodanadu, was the first to propose Sangma’s name and followed it up by putting her name on the top of the list of 50 eligible voters backing him on June 27, a day before he was expected to file his nomination papers. Sangma would have had many more votes if the DMDK which has 29 MLAs and CPI which has eight MLAs had continued to be part of the AIADMK alliance which fought the Assembly elections together last year. But both these parties will abstain which means 7,200 votes will not be added to either Sangma or Pranabda. Whereas Karunanidhi can actually afford to smile because CPM (with 10 MLAs) which was in Amma’s corner last year is now voting for Pranab Mukherjee along with the DMK, Congress, PMK and VCK. Karunanidhi will also get an opportunity to bask in the limelight when Pranabda comes to Chennai on June 30 to kick off his formal election campaign to solicit support for the July 19 Presidential poll.

It therefore looks like Amma won the war in May 2011 with her alliance winning 203 seats but where acceptability of her leadership is concerned, she seems to be losing the war because her alliance has come unstuck. When she dreams about being a PM, she should remember that while obsequious AIADMK leaders and cadre might give her an ego boost, it will not go a long way on the national stage.

Stalin V/s Azhagiri

Of course numbers can change, but in the AIADMK no one will dare cross Amma and vote for Pranab. In the DMK, it might be a different story with even party chief, M Karunanidhi, acknowledging that “local differences” led to factionalism, while referring to the “jail bharo” the party has planned for July 4 to protest Jayalalitha’s “vendetta” politics that includes arrest of leaders for alleged land grabbing.

The biggest source for factionalism in the DMK, although the party chief avoided mentioning it, is the feud between Karunanidhi’s sons, Stalin and Azhagiri. The rivalry was in full display in Madurai this week when two separate meetings had to be held for the “jail bharo” agitation. It was clear that Azhagiri no longer “owns” Madurai because one meeting of district secretaries who are his loyalists and another meeting which included youth members who back Stalin were held. Another telling clue was when his name went missing from the programme schedule that was drawn up by the party high command and released in all 33 districts. And the final clue was when Azhagiri chose to stay away from the Madurai unit consultative meeting although he was in the city and the function was held at a venue which is a stone’s throw from his house. Sources say he will even stay away from the “jail bharo” agitation.

When the DMK is already showing such obvious cracks, it is anyone’s guess how the rivalry will pan out at a time when the party is trying to put up a united front to take on Jayalalitha.

Privatision is all Garbage

Oftentimes we are told that privatisation is the solution because the private sector is lean and mean as opposed to the government which employs slothful people. But people are people whether they are employed by private companies or the government and they need an attitudinal shift if things have to improve. And that comes across clearly when you consider that giving garbage management to private firms in Chennai have been total failures. Would you believe that before 1999, when garbage clearance was under the corporation, Chennai was cleaner?

It was former deputy CM M K Stalin’s bright idea to bring in a private company to clear garbage when he was the mayor in 1999. He chose Singapore-based Onyx, which floundered initially, but improved later enough for Chennai citizens to believe privatisation had brought an improvement to Chennai’s garbage cleaning. Onyx was replaced by Neel Metal Fanalca, which was more in the news for the show cause notices served on it by the corporation for a bad job done.

Hyderbad-based Ramky Enviro Limited was then given Rs 560 crore for a seven year contract for collection, segregation and transportation of garbage from Teynampet, Adyar and Kodambakkam zones on November 23, 2011. It was paid Rs 1,460 per tones of garbage as compared to 738 per tones that Neel Metal Fanalca was being paid. It is barely six months since Ramky took over in three of the 15 zones in the ciy but it is already butting heads with citizens living in these zones, the persons it has employed and the corporation. Recently, the complaints of garbage piling up mounted so much that corporation employees pitched in to clear the muck in these zones.

The corporation’s critical stand against Ramky has led to the company having to hike wages of striking workers to entice them back to their jobs. Wages for sweepers have been increased from Rs. 4,500 to Rs. 5,550 per month. A tricycle helper will get Rs. 5,850 instead of the earlier Rs. 5,000. Wages for compactor helpers have been increased from Rs. 5,850 to Rs. 7,300. A heavy vehicle driver will now earn Rs. 10,250 instead of Rs. 8,000. Light vehicle drivers will get Rs. 8,100 against Rs. 6,900 earned previously.

Will this hike lead to better garbage management? Watch this space.

From Chennai to China

The city generates 4,200 tonnes of garbage everyday of which only 200 tonnes is treated and reduced to compost. So what happens to the remaining 4000 tonnes? It is chucked in Pallikarnai marsh which once had 150 hectares of wetlands, and at Kodungaiyur where cattle used to graze once. On June 9, a huge fire broke out at Pallikarnai and spread fast as garbage, including plastic and chemical wastes fed the fire. Traffic was disrupted for several hours because the white smoke emanating from the fire led to almost zero visibility – there was even a minor accident – on the road. Residents of the area had to move out temporarily because the noxious fumes made breathing difficult.

This city expanded last October without a clue about how to manage waste. So in areas like Manali, Madhavaram, Ambattur and Sholinganallur, the corporation’s idea of waste management is to dump garbage on the city’s outskirts. And what was the solution of our city fathers? A “study” trip to China, Singapore and Hong Kong to learn first hand how garbage is handled there. Some months ago, Jayalalitha took an aerial view of the Perungudi dumping yard and as a result allocated Rs 50 crore to improve waste management in Chennai. No results as yet.

A Cheeky Talent

Kruthiga Udayanidhi, wife of actor-director Udayanidhi and daughter-in-law of DMK leader M K Stalin is not amused but one has to give full marks to 21-year-old R Dinesh for cheekiness and audacity. Dinesh mimicked Kruthiga’s voice and conned aspiring director Kumaresan of Rs 50,000 before he landed in the police net.

In fact Dinesh got the idea to mimic Kruthiga’s voice when someone told him that his imitation of her was excellent. Dinesh's did not even bother to do any homework because he would first speak in his own voice and pretend to be her brother Inbanidhi, which actually happens to be the name of Kruthika’s little son instead. Luckily for him, the people he conned too were not aware of all this minutiae about Karunanidhi’s large clan.

On June 12, Kruthika took out a public notice in the DMK mouthpiece, Murasoli , that she was being impersonated by a conman. That notice alerted all potential victims that Dinesh was taking them for a ride. Kumaresan contacted Kruthiga’s lawyers who had published the notice, discovered Dinesh was a fraud and went to the police. Dinesh, who was arrested from a lodge in Triplicane along with his accomplice Mani, had earlier put his “talent” to good use by mimicking a range of politicians and cheating people.

It turns out that a Dindigul-based woman member of the DMK was the mastermind behind all of Dinesh’s cons. She employed Dinesh and Mani for Rs 7000 and Rs 5000 respectively and unleashed the former’s talent on unsuspecting DMK leaders for whom Karunanidhi’s family’s wish is their command. “She would ask Dinesh to talk to DMK leaders in the voice of Kruthika. At least four ministers granted favours thinking it was for Stalin’s daughter-in-law,” said the police about the woman who is yet to be arrested.

Jesus H Christ!

In a country which has become infamous for bans because something “hurts the religious sentiments” of a community, M Illyas has got away projecting himself as the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. No wonder his filing his nomination for the Presidential polls spawned levity and not violence. Illyas, 45, of Mitahalli village about 15 kms from Krishnagiri filed his nomination on June 18 before returning officer, V K Agnihotri.

One would have thought the joke is on him because his nomination was rejected because he did not attach certified copies of electoral rolls. But he is unfazed. “Why bother when I am already the President of the world?” What gives him the right to claim he is a reincarnation of Jesus Christ? He cannot explain, but says, “My work towards creating a world against caste, creed and religion will make people realize that my claim as a reincarnation of Jesus Christ is true.”

Is he a crank? Most definitely as his earlier list of transgressions confirms. He faces charges under section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, after his arrest in December 2011 by Kaveripattinam police for two reasons: for hoisting the flag on a mast painted in black, and for flying the flag at half-mast to show his protest that Ban Ki-Moon was appointed UN Secretary General without elections.


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