Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: Autorickshaw drivers in Kerala have come in for praise from Minister of State for Law and Justice K. Venkatapathy. At a function on Thursday to felicitate three students of the Malayala Vidyalayam High School for their meritorious performance in the SSLC examinations, Mr. Venkatapathy said he respected the Malayali autorickshaw driver’s sense of dignity, self-respect and urbane worldview. “He will not hanker after passengers or over-charge unlike what happens in Chennai, where one is literally mobbed by autorickshaw drivers and then fleeced. It makes life difficult even for someone as stocky as me,” the Minister said, setting off mirth in a hall packed with children and teachers.

Mr. Venkatapathy was, however, using the comparison to highlight the importance of being educated. Literacy and education, even among women, were the hallmarks of Kerala society, he said. Gender equality and property entitlement for women were also an index for that State’s progressiveness.

In Tamil Nadu, women were given rights to property in 1989 at the initiative of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, who was also instrumental in getting the Centre to enact a law in 2005, he said.

The Minister extensively quoted from Bharathiyar and Thiruvalluvar to emphasise the importance of knowledge. He condemned the modern-day tendency among a section of youth to ignore the mother tongue in favour of English, or some other foreign language.

The Minister presented gold medallions to Aswathi Krishnan and Reshma K. for winning the first and second ranks in Malayalam at the SSLC examinations conducted by the Government of Tamil Nadu, and Sangeetha for scoring centum in mathematics.