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Photo finish likely in Ramanathapuram

D.J. Walter Scott
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Fishermen’s woes add to voters’ anger in this arid zone

Candidates for the Lok Sabha polls hailing from the OBC ‘Mukkulathor’ community usually hold sway in this drought-prone backward constituency.

However, for the first time in over three decades, both the major regional parties, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), have fielded candidates from the Muslim minority community for the title clash.

So, pollsters keep their fingers crossed about the 2014 election.

In this caste-sensitive sprawling constituency, ‘Mukkulathors’ constitute 24.76 per cent of the total electorate followed by Dalits (22.5 per cent) and Muslims (16.39 per cent).

It has two of the six Assembly segments, Aranthangi and Tiruchuzhi located in the neighbouring Pudukkottai and Virudhunagar districts respectively.

The other four Assembly segments are Ramanathapuram, Paramakudi, Mudukulathur and Tiruvaadanai.

The constituency known for communal flare ups, especially during the ‘Thevar Jayanthi’ and death anniversary of Dalit leader Immanuel Sekaran, owes no allegiance to any particular political party, though the Congress had won the seat for a maximum seven times since 1951, including a hat-trick by V. Rajeswaran (1984, 1989 and 1991).

The DMK (in 1980, 2004, 2009 Lok Sabha polls) and the AIADMK (in 1977, 1998, 1999) had won the seat three times each but both the national and regional parties made it a point to field candidates from the ‘Mukkulathor’ community.

This time, the AIADMK has fielded former Minister A. Anwar Raja and the DMK, S. Mohamed Jaleel, both from the minority community.

As the traditional Dravidian rivals fight it out, the contest has turned hot with the entry of three national parties this time — the Congress, BJP and CPI.

The Congress has fielded former Union Minister Su. Thirunavukkarasar, the CPI R.T. Uma Maheswari, and the BJP D. Kuppuramu, all from the ‘Mukkulathor’ community.

Mr. Thirunavukkarasar, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2009 elections as a BJP nominee is trying his luck again, this time as a Congress candidate.

In the five-cornered contest, the candidates have vouched to remove the ‘backward tag’ the constituency has been carrying for several decades, even as the people still cry for basic needs.

“It is enough if they fulfilled our basic needs such as roads and potable water,” says S. Jayalakshmi, a flower vendor.

The constituency has good potential for setting up fish and agro-based industries, besides promoting tourism and adventure water sports.

About one crore tourists visit the historic Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameswaram near here, but the potential for developing tourism remains untapped.

With a lagoon on one side, Dhanushkodi is best suited for kite surfing.

Similarly, the Gulf of Mannar region was found ideal for “Kayak tourism,” but no effort has been taken to exploit these potentials.

The Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy have their stations but are not seen as job creators for the local folks.

About 35 per cent of the population is engaged in farming.

But when the monsoons fail, farm workers migrate to Malaysia, Singapore and Gulf countries to take up jobs in hotels and in the construction industry.

The district topped the State in fish production but the fishermen, particularly those in Rameswaram Island, continue to reel under troubles.

“We often get arrested by the Lankan Navy but a solution to the dispute over fishing in the Palk Bay is eluding us for 30 years,” P. Sesu Raja, a fishermen leader says.

They have been demanding a full-fledged fishing harbour, fish landing and auction centres, he added.

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