Responding to a query at a press conference in Chennai on Wednesday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa said the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should ask DMK Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran to resign in the wake of the allegations published in the Tehelka magazine. The questions at the press conference ranged from queries about protests over school fees to the reason why she has started wearing jewellery again. Read the entire transcript of the conference here.
Excerpts from the press conference addressed by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa at the Secretariat in Chennai on Wednesday, June 01, 2011:
Question: What stand do you expect the Prime Minister to take on (Union Textiles Minister) Dayanidhi Maran in the 2G spectrum case?
Answer: I am quite sure the Prime Minister knows what should be done in the matter concerning Mr. Dayanidhi Maran. I’m sure he will take a good decision. He should clearly tell Mr. Maran that he should resign from his ministerial post. The Prime Minister should ask him to quit immediately, if he has already not done so. Mr. Maran should quit the Cabinet and face legal action.
Q: You have said you can intervene in the issue of school fees only if the schools seek your intervention. Parents are expecting some positive announcement from you in this regard. What is your stand on this issue?
A: Until now, there appears to be no complaint. Whether it is parents or schools, if a memorandum is given to the government, that will definitely be considered.
Q: There are protests taking place here and there on this issue.
A: If the school managements or parents feel that the prescribed fees are detrimental to their interests, they can approach the government, instead of holding protests. The government will certainly take action if they approach it with a request that it intervene and find a solution.
Q: The function to launch the free rice scheme was very simple. Will all government functions be held in such a simple manner from now on?
A: Certainly. We should avoid unnecessary ostentation. My aim is that we should avoid needless expenditure, and we are fulfilling that. As far as I am concerned, I am delighted that I could fulfil one very important promise made to the people prior to the election.
Q: In Puducherry, all commodities are available on all days in ration shops. Will this system be followed in Tamil Nadu too?
A: Even now, the people can visit fair price shops whenever it is convenient to them and buy the commodities they want.
Q: During the previous regime, commodities meant for sale to the public in ration shops were sold to hotels. Will the government take any action in this regard?
A: Such malpractices took place during DMK rule. Whenever the DMK comes to power, these malpractices tend to occur. On the other hand, whenever the AIADMK assumes office, such irregularities are weeded out. Whether it was Puratchi Thalaivar (MG Ramachandran)’s regime or my regime, there were no complaints of irregularities in the public distribution system. Because of the wrong policies of the previous government, irregularities could have occurred in the PDS. Appropriate action will be taken to streamline the public distribution system.
Q: What is your stand on the latest verdict concerning the appointment of the Director General of Police?
A: The judgment came only yesterday. We are yet to read it. We can comment on it only after studying it in detail.
Q: Will counselling for engineering admissions take place only in Chennai or in four zones in Tamil Nadu?
A: It will be announced after consultation with the department concerned.
Q: Will the Anna Universities of Technology be merged with Anna University?
A: This was discussed in detail in the Cabinet meeting. The Governor’s address will contain an announcement in this regard day after tomorrow. Therefore, I’m unable to disclose the decision made in the Cabinet now.
Q: The former Chief Minister has said that the uniform system of education can be implemented after deleting the poem written by him from the textbooks, if that is the only reason why Samacheer Kalvi has been put on hold.
A: This is quite childish. We have not made any decision because he has written a poem. On the contrary, our only objective is that the standard of education to be imparted to children as a whole should be raised.
Q: You were not wearing any jewellery for a long time. Any reason why you have started wearing ear-studs now?
A: I was wondering why no one asked me about this. Since 1997, I have not worn any jewellery or ornaments. This decision, however, did not go down well with my party workers. Over the last few years, whenever they met me, my party cadre have been telling me, “We are very unhappy when we see you like this. You must change your decision and wear some jewellery.” They told me that just because some had pointed fingers at me in the past I shouldn’t be like this. They have been pressing me to give up my objection to wearing any ornaments, saying, “Karunanidhi and his family members, who have maligned you in the past, are themselves facing charges and legal proceedings. Why should you be like this just because someone had pointed fingers at you?” However, I didn’t heed their request. As soon as the results were declared on May 13, a large number of party workers gathered at my house to celebrate our victory. Some of them said that if even after this resounding victory I refused to wear any ornaments, they would pour kerosene on themselves and commit self-immolation. My party cadre tend to carry out such threats. Many have attempted self-immolation for various reasons in the past and we have been unable to save their lives. So, I was taken aback by their threat. As I didn’t want any untoward incident at a time when there was every reason to celebrate, I changed my mind and started wearing ear studs. If I had to wear some jewellery to save the lives of my party cadre, I was ready to change my mind and I began to wear ear studs from 14th. Already, some have cut off their own tongue and finger in the name of making an offering. These things cause me great distress. When I heard that a woman had cut off her tongue as a votive offering, I had her admitted to Theni hospital for first aid and later she was shifted to Madurai. And then she was brought to Chennai for treatment at Apollo Hospitals. She has undergone a surgery and she is now able to talk a little and doctors say she will soon regain her speech fully. Some newspapers have also made some comments on this, saying the Chief Minister is rewarding the woman who cut off her own tongue with a government job and that this amounts to encouraging such acts. It’s not like that. I didn’t expect that somebody would do such an act. As soon as I heard that it had happened, I rendered whatever assistance I could on humanitarian grounds. I enquired about her condition. Her husband has deserted her and she has two children. She has no income, and I thought the mother has to be saved for the sake of her children’s sustenance. This was why she was given a government job, and not because I wanted to reward or encourage her.
Q: You have said the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board is under debt to the tune of Rs. 46,000 crore. Is there any chance that power tariff will be revised in Tamil Nadu?
A: All this is yet to be examined. Whatever the circumstances, we will not increase the burden on the people.
Q: It is said the previous government procured 350 MW of power from other States but failed to utilise it properly and that there were irregularities in this.
A: We will examine this issue and thereafter we will take suitable action. I wish to say something about electricity distribution. During our regime of 2001-06, there were no power cuts in Tamil Nadu. Our distribution was of high quality and all consumers got 24-hour supply. At that time, our installed capacity was 10,100 MW. As a result, we had surplus power that we sold to other States and raised revenue. Later, when the DMK came to power, everything changed. There was a decline in power generation and large scale malpractices took place in the TNEB. Inferior quality coal was imported. These were the main reasons for the fall in generation. Further, there was poor maintenance and management. Any thermal plant should be halted once every hour for maintenance, and this should be done in a planned manner. None of this happened in a proper manner under DMK rule. As a result, there were disruptions in power generation in large thermal power plants, and power had to be purchased at high prices from the private sector. We have to change all this now. There has been large scale corruption in the TNEB and we have to unearth it. We have said as an election promise that we will augment power generation by 5,000 MW. We will take steps to fulfil this.
Q: There are allegations of irregularities in the procurement of power at high prices from other States. Will there be an inquiry commission to probe such charges?
A: It is not yet three weeks since we assumed office. We are engaged in department-wise reviews. Action will be taken step by step.
Q: What is your view on the Lokpal Bill?
A: I understand that copies of a draft Lokpal Bill has been sent to all Chief Ministers, but we are yet to receive the draft. As soon as we get it, we will study the matter and express our view.
Q: During the last regime, tokens were given for distribution of colour TV sets and houses. Will the distribution continue?
A: You will get a clear reply in the Governor’s address. I can’t disclose everything now.
Q: Will there be a separate cell to receive complaints about school fees?
A: Already, there is a special cell in the Chief Minister’s office. It is enough if the complaints are sent to this cell. The case relating to fixation of fee is pending in the court.
Q: What is the condition of the government treasury?
A: Even this, I can’t disclose now. The Governor’s address will have the clarifications you seek.
Q: Will there be any inquiry commission to probe allegations of irregularities in awarding tenders for construction of the new secretariat?
A: The Governor’s address will contain a reply to this question too.