Civil society members come together to announce agitation plan

In a rare show of solidarity for a public cause, members of the civil society comprising representatives from the trading community, consumer, residents’ welfare and youth organisations, farmers groups and political parties of the district came together on Tuesday to voice their collective opposition to the Railways’ decision to extend the Tiruchi-Chennai Pallavan Express up to Karaikudi.

They also floated a new forum, Rockfort, Pallavan Express Trains Retrieval Committee, to fight for the restoration of the two trains to the city. The move comes amidst sporadic protests being organised in the city over the past fortnight against the extension of the Pallavan Express and as an attempt to unite all organisations fighting for the cause under a common umbrella.

The forum, comprising nearly 100 members from different sections of the society, held its first consultative meeting in the city on Tuesday.

The meeting was attended by representatives of various political parties except the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK). However, the organisers claimed that the initiative had the support of all parties as AIADMK MLAs, Tiruchi MP P.Kumar and district representatives of DMDK have pledged their support to the cause.

Soon after the meeting, it was announced that the forum would resort to a series of agitations to press the Railways to operate the two trains from Tiruchi. As a first step, a “massive demonstration” will be organised in front of the Railway Junction in the city on April 3.

“We are also planning a series of agitations including a human chain, a 24-hour traders bandh and a rail blockade. If our demand is not conceded, we will not allow the Pallavan Express to run to Karaikudi,” said V.Govindarajalu, coordinator of the committee, briefing reporters after the meeting.

A resolution adopted at the meeting pointed out that residents were already fighting for restoration of the operation of Rockfort Express from Tiruchi.

The Railways has come up with the decision to extend the Pallavan Express, the only day-time train originating from Tiruchi to Chennai, at a time when there was a growing clamour for more trains from the city to Chennai to meet public demand.

Answering a query, M.Sekaran, president, Federation of Consumer and Service Organisations, said his organisation has already served a legal notice to the Railways and was planning to move the court soon against the extension of the Pallavan Express to Karaikudi.

“The Railways cannot extend trains ignoring the sentiments of the people,” observed S.Pushpavanam, secretary, Consumer Protection Council, Tamil Nadu.

The forum called upon people of the district to rise above political and other differences to extend their wholehearted support to the initiative.

“This is the first time that we have all come together and stood united for a public cause. We are confident of achieving our objective,” said K.Suresh, city secretary of the Communist Party of India.

N.Siva, DMK MP, M.Anbazhagan, DMK urban district secretary and former Deputy Mayor, S.Sridhar, district secretary, CPI (M), Jerome Arockiaraj, president of the urban district Congress committee, M.Rajasekaran, former MLA, Congress, M.Malarmannan, urban district secretary, MDMK, Kannadasan of Pattali Makkal Katchi, and representatives of farmers organisations, Tiruchi Travel Federation, District Exnora, Tiruchi Film Chamber, Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peramaippu, Tiruchi District Writers Association and Tiruchi Textile and Readymade Traders Association, were among those who attended the meeting.