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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Decoding Jayalalithaa’s historic win

Anjalatchi works in the salt pans of Marakkanam in Villupuram district. She gets Rs 150 as daily wages. “We are poor as we did not get formal education. But, we want our children to be educated. My child could drop out of school if I cannot afford to buy a new set of uniforms for her. No longer do I have any such fear.” The reason: the Jayalalithaa government’s scheme of providing four sets of school uniforms, text books note books, other educational kits and footwear, all of which would be worth Rs. 3,000. Each school student in government or government aided school is covered under this scheme every year. This has helped reducing the drop out rate of students.

“No other chief minister has done this” Anjalatchi goes on, elaborating. This salt pan worker is one of many such persons I came across during my survey of people across Tamil Nadu during the second week of April 2016 to understand the possible voting behaviour of people and the likely verdict of the May 16 Assembly polls. This partly explains the AIADMK’s hold over the rural electorate across Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK has swept the rural districts of Theni, Erode, Ariyalur and Perambalur. The hold is near total in the rural districts of Salem, Madurai, Nagapattinam, Namakkal and Thoothukudi.

“She has been doing good; Given another chance, she would do more good for the public,” said Meharunnisa, a senior citizen in Cumbum, getting a monthly pension of Rs. 1,000 since 2011. The AIADMK wrested Cumbum this time from the DMK.
When I visited villages along the Cauvery river in Tiruchi district, I could see the impact of the free cattle scheme of the AIADMK regime. “I am a poor woman. When I got the free milch cow from the government, my status in the village went up” said Ammasi in Arasangudi village, indicating how economically empowered she has now become. Such accounts of woman -only households getting empowered are not in isolation as I discovered during my journeys across the state. These poor people live far beyond the media-
managed perceptions of “an arrogant” and “autocratic” Jayalalithaa.

After I published the survey results in the digital news outlet ( I manage, those who are close to the DMK treasurer M.K.Stalin wanted to know whether I was telling “the truth.” I explained in detail what I witnessed as the “near total support of rural Tamil Nadu” for Jayalalithaa. I also told them that “The ‘DMK’ villages have converted themselves into AIADMK villages. ‘Communist’ villages are now ‘Amma’ villages.” I learnt subsequently that the DMK functionaries took my feedback seriously and tried to reach out to the rural electorate in Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai and Tirunelveli.

The voters, when asked about the Vijayakanth-People’s Welfare Front combine, were not really impressed. “When Amma is doing all the welfare programmes, why are they (PWF) asking for change?” remarked Malarkodi, a working woman in Tiruchi. Many voters like Malarkodi felt that the going was good and hence a change was not required. The DMK-Congress combine or the DMDK-PWF combine could not convince the voters with a “compulsive reason” for regime change. Many people told me that their choices were based on the perception of who would deliver welfare schemes better in the next five years; “The DMK has been very good to the government staff but not necessarily to the poor” said Kuttaiyan from Mudukkupatti village in Tiruchi district.

Women in villages told me that Jayalalithaa had been undertaking several measures for poor women. The provision of four gram gold for thali (mangalsutra) was one such measure, they explained. The fact that the AIADMK regime could touch the lives of lakhs of women across the state is one reason why women outnumbered men by nearly four lakhs on the day of polling. Many pre-poll surveys excluded women and found that the DMK was winning; a popular vernacular daily even claimed that the women were not speaking to their enumerators and could reach only around thirty per cent women in their survey sample.

In Chennai, the scenario has been a little different from the rest of the state; “When the floods affected Teynampet, the DMK cadre came to us with bed sheets, candles and food. The AIADMK councilors had just disappeared,” said Kasturi, who works as a sanitary worker in downtown T.Nagar. Also, the electorate in Chennai have apparently been affected by the findings of poll surveys which generally favored the DMK and social media where the AIADMK has been quite weak. The most active political forces on social media were Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) of Seeman, the DMK and the PWF.

As my survey pointed out a month prior to the polls, it was the rural poor, especially women, who reposed faith in Jayalalithaa and wanted her to continue as Chief Minister of the state. More than the party machinery which is prone to internal feuds at the end of a five-year tenure, it was this section of the electorate that Jayalalithaa depended upon. AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa reiterated her commitment to being pro-poor in two of her last public rallies ahead of the crucial elections. This is particularly important in the rhetoric-filled Dravidian political landscape. While her rival M.K.Stalin’s public discourses revolved around the idea of the DMK being pro-business, Jayalalithaa made noises about being pro-industry only in her Coimbatore public rally. Though Tamil Nadu is one of the most urbanised states (54 per cent), the rural masses can still call the shots like elsewhere in “Bharat.”

(Jayalalithaa became the first chief minister after M.G.Ramachandran in 1984 to get elected for two consecutive terms in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu)

(Peer Mohamed is the Founding Editor of, a digital news outlet in Tamil)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

IPPODHU IS FOR INCLUSIVE JOURNALISM is launched for inclusive journalism; Launched on Indian Independence Day in 2015, this digital news outlet is redefining Tamil journalism for the Smartphone Age; The founding team includes Peer Mohamed, S.Srinivasan, Akb. Ariff, Shubashree Desikan, Avinaash, Bindu Bhaskar.

Keep on your smartphone by adding it to Home Screen and stay connected to the ground wherever you are.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

#chennaifloods is not just about Adyar overflowing; three rivers in Chennai City overflowed on Dec. 1 night

It was early morning 2 am on Wednesday, Dec. 2. Murugesan, auto rickshaw driver, was minting money offering short trips to people stranded in the rains in T.Nagar, downtown Chennai. When he got a call from his wife Ganga in those wee hours, he knew his happiness could not last any longer. Cooum river has swollen and drowned his home in Aminjikarai in Central Chennai. Ganga and over five thousand people were evacuated to safety from Kathiravan Nagar which is built right on the banks of Cooum river like the Ampa Skywalk Mall, housing businesses and cinemas. Kosasthalaiyar, the river which touches northern boundary of Chennai city near Ennore Creek has already overflown and cut off Manali Puthunagar, Kargil Nagar from rest of the city. People were evacuated in fishing boats thanks to the proximity of fishing communities from Pulicat to Kasimedu in Northern Chennai.

In the meantime, Adyar river, in south Chennai, has flown into the Chennai Airport by 7 pm on Dec 1 and the flight operations were stopped from 9 pm Tuesday night. It was historic that the airport had to be shut until Sunday, causing airliners losses to the tune of 1000 crore according to a report in The New Indian Express It was around 11 am on Dec. 2, Adyar river started touching the Maraimalai Adigal Bridge in Saidapet. This bridge is the mainline to Anna Salai (erstwhile Mount Road) from Chennai Airport and Tambaram. The bridge was closed to vehicular traffic until next afternoon; making Chennai City into islands on one side by overflowing Adyar river, in the central part by a flooded Cooum river and on the northern part by overflowing Kosasthalaiyar river. The 49 cm rains in Tambaram and 47 cm rains in Chembarambakkam on Dec. 2 caught the city unawares. Even by the admission of the state Chief Secretary Gnanadesikan, the breaches in Nandivaram, Mannivakkam, Urapakkam and Adanur lakes in southern parts of the city poured more water into the already-overflowing Adyar river. This, to some extent, explains the inundation at the three-level underground parking in the 45-acre SEZ DLF IT city on the banks of Adyar river on Dec. 3.

The Chennai newsrooms and those writing for upcountry publications mostly reside in south Chennai where Adyar is the only river. Their perspective of the city geography is limited by their surroundings. That is why a content analysis of media reports on Chennai deluge show that seventy per cent of the reports talk about Adyar river overflowing; In fact, all the three rivers in the city overflowed and marooned dwellings. A data analysis of the floods in the past four decades available in the public domain would tell us that Adyar did overflow ten years back with 40,000 cusecs (PDF file attached). The reason it did not maroon hundreds of homes then was that there were not many encroachments on the banks of Adyar river as it enters the city.

Encroachments include an iron bridge in the Army Quarters in Nandambakkam and the extended backyards of bureaucrats in Manapakkam and the gardens of industrialists in Boat Club; However, media outlets talk of huts of migrant workers and indigenous people on Adyar river banks as the "only" encroachments.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Be Patient and Constant

If God do touch thee
With hurt, there is none
Can remove it but He:
If He do design some benefit
For thee, there is none
Can keep back His favour:
He causeth it to reach
Whomsoever of His servants
He pleaseth. And He is
The Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

Say: "O ye men! Now
Truth hath reached you
From your Lord! Those, who receive
Guidance, do so for the good
Of their own souls; those
Who stray, do so to their own loss:
And I am not (set) over you
To arrange your affairs."

Follow thou the inspiration
Sent unto thee, and be
Patient and constant, till God,
Do decide: for He
Is the Best to decide.

(The Holy Quran. Chapter: 10, Verses: 107,108, 109)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

பெருமாள் முருகனின் மாதொருபாகன்

1. மாதொருபாகன் எதைப் பற்றியது? எதனால் இது சர்ச்சை ஆனது?

பெருமாள் முருகன் எழுதி 2010 ஆம் ஆண்டில் வெளியான நாவல் “மாதொருபாகன்.” ஐம்பது ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன்பு நிகழும் கதை இது. காளியும் பொன்னாளும் திருமணமாகி பதினான்கு ஆண்டுகளாகக் குழந்தை இல்லை. இரண்டு குடும்பத்தாரும் சேர்ந்து அந்த ஊர் வழக்கப்படி பொன்னாளுக்குக் குழந்தைப்பேறு கிடைக்கச் செய்ய ஒரு கடைசி முயற்சி செய்கிறார்கள். கோவில் திருவிழாவின் பதினான்காவது நாள் இரவில் குழந்தைப்பேறு இல்லாத பெண்கள் கோவிலுக்குத் தனியே அனுப்பப்படுவது உண்டு. அன்று இரவு வரும் ஆண்களெல்லாம் சாமிகள் என்பது ஐதீகம். பெண் யாரைத் தேர்வு செய்து உடலுறவு வைத்தாலும் அனுமதிக்கப்படுகிறது. குழந்தை பிறந்தால் இதை “சாமியின் குழந்தை” என்று இரண்டு குடும்பங்களும் ஏற்றுக்கொள்வது வழக்கம். இந்த வழக்கம் பற்றிய குறிப்பு சமூகத்தை இழிவுபடுத்துவதாகச் சொல்லி சில அரசியல், சமூக அமைப்புகள் போராட்டம் நடத்தின. பெருமாள் முருகனுக்கும் அவரது குடும்பத்தாருக்கும் அச்சுறுத்தல் விடுக்கப்பட்டது. பெருமாள் முருகன் எழுதுவதையே விட்டுவிடுவதாக அறிவித்தார்.

2. நாவல் வெளியாகி ஐந்து ஆண்டுகளுக்குப் பிறகு போராட்டம் நடக்கக் காரணம் என்ன?

தமிழ்நாட்டில் இதுபோன்ற சாதி கவுரவ பிரச்னைகளை, மதச்சார்பான பிரச்னைகளைக் கையில் எடுத்து கவனத்தைப் பெறுவதற்கு சில குழுக்கள் முயற்சிக்கலாம்.

3. நாவலுக்கு எதிரான போராட்டமே தவறு என்று சொல்ல முடியுமா?

எந்தச் சமூகக் குழுவும் அரசியல் குழுவும் தனது கருத்துக்களை ஜனநாயகப்பூர்வமாக, பேச்சுவார்த்தை மூலமாக தெரிவிக்கலாம். ஆர்ப்பாட்டம் மூலமாகக் கண்டனத்தை வெளியிடலாம். பெருமாள் முருகனுக்கும் அவரது குடும்பத்தாருக்கும் உயிராபத்தை விளைவிப்பதான அச்சுறுத்தல்தான் ஜனநாயகத்தின் வரம்புகளைக் கடந்தது.

4. இதுபோன்ற சித்தரிப்புகள் இலக்கியத்தில் இயல்பானதா?

அனைவராலும் கொண்டாடப்படும் இதிகாசமான மகாபாரதத்தில் ஒரு நிகழ்வு; விசித்ரருக்கு அம்பிகா, அம்பாலிகா என்று இரு மனைவிகள். அம்பிகாவுக்கு திருதிராஷ்டிரரும் அம்பாலிகாவுக்கு பாண்டுவும் பிறந்தது வியாச முனிவரால்தான் என்று காவியம் சொல்கிறது. இதனை முதுபெரும் எழுத்தாளர் அசோகமித்திரன் சுட்டிக்காட்டியிருக்கிறார்.

5. இதுபோன்ற பிரச்னைகளில் தீர்வை அடைவது எப்படி?

குறிப்பிட்ட கலைப்படைப்பினால் மனம் புண்பட்டவர்களும் படைப்பிலக்கியத்தை உருவாக்கியவர்களும் உரையாடலில் ஈடுபடலாம்; தேவைப்பட்டால் மட்டும் அரசு இதில் தலையிடலாம்; சுமுகமாகப் பேசி, வரலாற்றில் இலக்கியத்தின் இடத்தைப் புரிந்துகொள்ளச் செய்ய முயற்சிக்கலாம். சமாதானம் எட்ட முடியாதபோது நீதிமன்றத்தில் வழக்காடலாம். நீதிமன்றங்கள் இதில் பெரும்பான்மைவாதத்துக்கு இடமளிக்காமல் உண்மைக்கும் நியாயத்துக்கும் கட்டுப்பட்டு தனிநபரின் அரசியல் சாசன உரிமைகளைக் காப்பதற்கு முயற்சிக்கலாம்.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Stand for Justice: The Holy Quran

Serve God, and join not
Any partners with Him;
And do good-
To parents, kinsfolk,
Orphans, those in need,
Neighbours who are of kin
Neighbours who are strangers,
The Companion by your side,
The way-farer (ye meet),
And what your right hands possess:
For God loveth not
The arrogant, the vainglorious;-

(Nor)those who are niggardly,
Enjoin niggardliness on others,
Hide the bounties
Which God hath bestowed
On them; We have prepared,
For those who resist Faith,
A Punishment that steeps
Them in contempt;-

(The Holy Quran, Chapter: 4, Verses: 36 and 37)

O ye who believe!
Stand out firmly
For justice, as witnesses
To God, even as against
Yourselves, or your parents,
Or your kin, and whether
It be (against) rich or poor:
For God can best protect both.
Follow not the lusts
(Of your hearts), lest ye
Swerve, and if ye
Distort (justice) or decline
To do justice, verily
God is well-acquainted
With all that ye do.

(The Holy Quran, Chapter: 4, Verse: 135)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Message for Palestine: The End is Best for the Righteous

Said Moses to his people:
"Pray for help from God,"
And (wait) in patience and constancy:
For the earth is God's,
To give as a heritage
To such of His servants
As He pleaseth; and the end
Is (best) for the righteous.

They said: "We have had
(Nothing but) trouble, both before
And after thou camest
To us." He said:
"It maybe that your Lord
Will destroy your enemy
And make you inheritors
In the earth; so that
He may see how ye act."

(The Holy Quran, Chapter: 7, Verses: 128 and 129)