Hundreds of shops under the Thiruporur town panchayat limits remained closed on Monday in support of a hunger fast demanding that the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010 be withdrawn, as it affects the lives and livelihood of the entire population.
Under the Act, any development work up to 100 metres from a protected monument cannot be taken up. Thiruporur boasts an ancient Shiva temple on a hilltop, as well as a megalithic burial site, which is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
This, residents of the town say, is what is causing them severe hardship. According to Panchayat president Saktheswari Sivaraman, the entire 20 sq. m. area of the town, as well as parts of Thandalam and Kannagapattu, have been affected by the Act.
“We are unable to take up any development work in the town. Even beyond 100 metres, we need permission from the ASI to construct anything up to 300 metres from the protected site. That apart, we are not even able to upgrade power connections within the temples, as the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) refuses to give us additional power citing the Act. Our general hospital has a new operation theatre, but we are unable to upgrade the power connection there as well,” she said.
In the town that has a population of 13,288, only one person has so far obtained planning permission from the ASI for construction.
In the Irula colony in the town, around 50 families have remained in darkness, unable to obtain power connections for generations now. Across the road from their colony however, a mobile phone tower stands tall, with a power connection of its own.
Though the families applied for power connections in 2008, the Corporation stopped short of installing meters saying they were within the regulated area of the ASI.
One resident, Kannamma, says her husband and two sons have died while waiting for a power connection in their hut. “Snakes meander through this area. How can we live with our children here?” she asks.
There is stark silence in the areas adjoining the Irula Colony too. These households have no use for TVs, mixers, grinders or radios.
“Our walls are blackened as we use kerosene lamps to light up our nights. My children wake up early and study as they cannot read under the light of the lamps,” said C. Saraswathi, another resident.
Sources in the department of archaeology, Tamil Valarchi Valaagam, said that all applications they receive are forwarded to the ASI. “Nothing is pending with us. Recently, applications from Tiruchy and Salem were cleared. After processing the files, the ASI calls us for an inspection,” the official said.
When asked, sources in Tangedco (Chengalpattu circle), said they would look into the issue.