Over 50 associations support stir against Kerala stand

Trade and industry joined the farming community in five southern districts on Thursday to express solidarity in the ongoing stir against the Kerala government's stand on the Mullaperiyar dam issue.

Trading activity in Madurai, Dindigul, Theni, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram came to a standstill as almost all trade and business establishments, with the exception of pharmacies, hospitals and milk booths, downed their shutters.

The busy Adi, Masi and Avanimoola streets around the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai, which transact business in crores of rupees daily, wore a deserted look. More than 50 associations representing different sectors of the trade and industry came together to organise a day-long fast and protest meeting at the Madurai District Tiny and Small Scale Industries Association Hall. The meeting called for the immediate raising of the height of the Mullaperiyar dam as per Supreme Court directive.

Members of the Madurai Bar Association joined the fast. General secretary of Madurai Goods Transporters' Association B. Althaf said more than 200 goods vehicles stayed off roads. According to MADITSSIA president V. S. Manimaran the loss for the trade and industry on account of the bandh was around Rs. 200 crore.

The bandh was total also in Theni district where farmers and the public have been organising protest marches and demonstration against the Kerala government. The response to the bandh call from trade organisations was overwhelming in Dindigul district.

Except pharmacies, no shop was opened in Sivaganga district. The response was extremely good in Karaikudi, the largest town in the district, where important roads wore a deserted look.

Members owing allegiance to Ramanathapuram Chamber of Commerce took out a rally in Ramanathapuram in protest against the stand of Kerala government.

They also criticised the Central government for failing to protect the interests and rights of Tamil Nadu in the Mullaperiyar dam issue. Autorickshaws were off roads in Ramanathapuram.

Chamber's plea

Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry has called for the immediate resolution of problems surrounding the Mullaperiyar dam and Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP).

Along with its 80 affiliated bodies, the Chamber members observed a day-long fast and bandh in five southern districts in the Periyar-Vaigai Basin pressing the State and Central governments to solve both these issues. Chamber president N. Jegatheesan presided over the protest meeting in Madurai.

“Panic being created”

Addressing the meeting, chamber senior president S. Rethinavelu said that panic was being created over both these issues. While people feared for the safety of dam in Mullaperiyar issue, fears of nuclear explosion and radiation were being spread on the KKNPP.

The Kerala government, he said, wanted to demolish Mullaperiyar dam in order to generate hydro-electric power generation through the downstream Idukki dam. However, Tamil Nadu needed the water for agricultural purposes on which thousands of farmers were dependent.

With Tamil Nadu facing water disputes with all of its neighbours — on Palar with Andhra Pradesh, on Cauvery with Karnataka and on Vaigai with Kerala — Mr. Rethinavelu said that nationalisation and inter-linking of all rivers in the country was the only permanent solution. He also called that this was also called for by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam when he was the President.

“Will benefit State”

Speaking on the KKNPP, he said that it was unreasonable for calling to scrap a project on which over Rs. 14,000 crore of tax payers' money had been spent. Moreover, the project would immediately provide 1,000 MW to Tamil Nadu which is facing an acute power shortage. In the long-term, the KKNPP would generate 6,000 MW, of which half would be supplied to Tamil Nadu, enabling it to become a power-surplus State.

The safety of nuclear project had been vouched for by many scientists and experts including Mr. Kalam, he added.