K. V. Prasad
COIMBATORE: Even before the rough and tumble of the election campaign began for the Coimbatore Lok Sabha constituency, one candidate generated a lot of interest for both his age and his academic-professional background. At the age of 71, N. Markandan, former Vice-Chancellor of Gandhigram Rural University, shows a resolve to pit himself against candidates of established parties just to show that he wants to make a difference.
People who know Mr. Markandan ask him jocularly whether it is appropriate to contest at this age. “There is a crisis of character and this has forced me to contest. I want to say what is missing in society and how it affects development on all fronts.” This is how he began at a meet-the-candidates programme in the city.
Born and brought up in Coimbatore, Mr. Markandan had participated in the Bhoodhan Movement of Acharya Vinobha Bave.
He was among 800 Gandhian workers jailed for taking part in a satyagraha in 1965 at Sholavandan in Madurai District to demand the allocation of lands belonging to the Meenakshi Amman Temple to Adi Dravida families. The result was that 28 acres of wet land were provided to the families.
Now, Mr. Markandan lays stress on electing good, responsible and knowledgeable representatives. “Our democracy should become a real people’s democracy. Governance should not be in the hands of self-centred people who resort to violence, bad means to stay in power and amass wealth,” he says. Improved cultural, social and economic status for Adi-Dravidas in an important area of focus.
“There is no need to pay pension to MPs and MLAs, who are already leading a very comfortable life when crores of people are in the grip of poverty. People will not object to pension only for poor representatives,” he observes.
“If I am elected, I will not claim pension after relinquishing the office of Member of Parliament,” he declares.
The academician stresses value-based and knowledge-oriented education.
“I will also stress the importance of giving representation to good and well-informed students in the academic councils and senates of universities.”
Mr. Markandan also promises to work for a mini health centre in every village, as a step towards providing the rural poor with access to quality healthcare.
Sanitary conditions in both rural and urban areas should be improved. Clean drinking water to every family in Coimbatore is a key requirement.
At the same time, all the water resources in the constituency should be conserved properly in order to prevent water shortage. Some of the other issues he focuses on are: better infrastructure, development of agriculture and small-scale industries, promotion of organic farming, khadi and village industries, strengthening local self-governance, the prevention of begging and providing assistance for the aged.