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`Get Katchatheevu on lease in perpetuity'

By Our Special Correspondent

The Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, presenting a memorandum to the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi on Thursday.

CHENNAI, SEPT. 16. The Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, today urged the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to get Katchatheevu from Sri Lanka on a `lease in perpetuity' solely for fishing, drying of nets and pilgrimage by Indian fishermen.

In a memorandum submitted to him in New Delhi, she said Sri Lanka's sovereignty over Katchatheevu could be upheld and at the same time, the lease would enable fishermen from Tamil Nadu to carry on their vocation "as they have been doing for centuries."

This was the best possible, permanent solution to the problem posed by the Sri Lankan Navy to Indian fishermen in the Palk Bay.

The rich fishing grounds, especially at and around the island of Katchatheevu had become a bone of contention, she pointed out. For several centuries, the fishermen of India, particularly from Tamil Nadu, were fishing in the Katchatheevu area. "The root cause of the misery and suffering of the fishermen of Tamil Nadu is the gifting away of the island of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka by the India-Sri Lanka maritime agreement in 1974," she said.

`Send drought team'

Ms. Jayalalithaa suggested that a Central team be deputed to the State to assess the drought situation and recommend an assistance package to undertake relief operations with support from the National Calamity Contingency Fund.

The Chief Minister wanted the Centre to take steps to declare Tamil a classical language. Tamil, she said, matched the antiquity of Greek. The body of literature in Tamil called `Sangam anthologies' and the grammar `Tholkappiam' dated back to the first few centuries before Christ. She also wanted Tamil and other languages listed in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution declared official languages of the Government of India. Also, `Thirukkural' should be declared national literature.

`More kerosene needed'

She demanded allotment of an additional quantity of kerosene for the public distribution system. Against a requirement of 1,00,219 kilolitres, the monthly allotment by the Government of India was only 58,392 kilolitres. While gas connections were being provided, it was a slow process and a majority of families in rural areas still depended on kerosene for both fuel and lighting.

The Chief Minister called for a Special Financial Assistance from the Centre for a 300-million litres a day desalination project for Chennai. Water supply was a State subject. While the Central budget indicated that desalination projects would be supported by the Government of India in the State sector, clear details were not yet available, she said.

The Chief Minister wanted the Prime Minister to include restoration of tanks and small irrigation structures in Tamil Nadu under the guidelines of the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme, "as Tamil Nadu has exhausted its surface water potential and can only go for rainwater harvesting."

Tamil Nadu, she said, had to look for sources beyond its frontiers for import of water to meet the needs of the growing population. In this context, she urged the Centre to take up the implementation of the Peninsular Rivers Development Project including the Pamba-Achankoil-Vaippar link. She also demanded nationalisation of inter-State rivers, and suggested a constitutional amendment to enable a two-tier system of panchayat raj.

Noting that a detailed techno-economic feasibility study for the development of the Colachel port had been completed in 1998, she said the Centre must take up the execution of the port as a major international hub in the Tenth Plan period itself.

Sethu project

On the Sethusamudram Canal Project, Ms. Jayalalithaa said the State Government would provide necessary assistance for its execution after the process of consultation was completed. A new international airport for Chennai, as in New Delhi and Mumbai, was necessary as the traffic potential was most encouraging, she said.

A liquefied natural gas terminal in Chennai with a gas grid for Tamil Nadu and revival of the Hindustan Photo Films at Udhagamandalam was among the demands in the memorandum.

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