Lok Sabha polls | Tiruvannamalai: lack of civic infrastructure, frequent garbage burning take the sheen off temple town

In Jolarpet and Tirupattur, small waterbodies and the groundwater are contaminated mainly by tanneries in nearby towns. Chengam and Kalasapakkam face depletion of water resources.

April 05, 2024 12:21 am | Updated 12:14 pm IST - TIRUVANNAMALAI

Raja gopuram of Sri Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai. File

Raja gopuram of Sri Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai. File | Photo Credit: C. Venkatachalapathy

The temple town of Tiruvannamalai draws its identity from the famous Arunachaleswara temple located at the base of Arunachala. Thousands of visitors across the globe throng the small town for spiritual bliss.

A small roundabout, Anna Arch, was lit by over one lakh earthen lamps by devotees during the Maha Deepam day that witnessed around 40 lakh footfall. Those who don’t get space inside 25-acre temple, watch the fire lit atop the hill from the arch. They worship the fire by lighting earthen lamps there. It ends their spiritual quest.

The following day, an army of sanitary workers collect tonnes of wastes from the streets in the town. Generated wastes were simply dumped in the open plot near the girivalam path that is covered by reserve forests (RFs) at the foothills. Garbage burning in the open yard is frequent, making residents gasp for fresh air in the town. “The town’s economy depends mostly on pilgrims. Educated youth migrate to big towns and cities like Chennai and Bengaluru for work as the town and adjoining areas do not have major industries to provide jobs,” said K. Meiappan, a trader.

Narrow streets and bylanes coupled with encroached intersections slows down traffic in the busy town that is home for around 1.67 lakh people. Most of the key bitumen stretches in the town were being converted into concrete lanes especially around the temple to ensure safe travel for motorists. As a result many streets are damaged and studded with potholes.

Bus is a major mode of transport in the town with more than 80% of travellers dependent on it. The existing bus terminus, built in 1990, does not reflect the town’s image of a pilgrim centre. Broken seating arrangements, stains on the walls and pillars of bus bays, overflowing bins, unhygienic eateries and defunct digital timing boards greet the visitors. Stray dogs and cattle freely roam freely inside the facility.

The town is one among six Assembly constituencies that include Jolarpet, Tirupattur, Chengam, Kilpennathur and Kalasapakkam forming Tiruvannamalai Lok Sabha constituency. Jolarpet and Tirupattur come under Tirupattur district and the remaining constituencies come under Tiruvannamalai district.

Jolarpet, a small railway town at the base of Yelagiri Hills, is better known for its rail services. Despite being surrounded by tannery towns like Vaniyambadi and Ambur, Jolarpet still retains its green cover with thick forests and large tracts of farmlands. Areas such as Jolarpet, Chengam, Kalasapakkam and Tirupattur towns have a common grievance - water contamination and its depletion. In Jolarpet and Tirupattur, small waterbodies and the groundwater were contaminated mainly by tanneries in nearby towns whereas Chengam and Kalasapakkam face depletion of water resources, mainly for farming purposes. Voters hope that candidates, especially from major political parties, address their concerns.

The ruling DMK has renominated C.N. Annadurai, who is contesting against M. Kaliyaperumal of the AIADMK, and the BJP’s A. Ashwathaman. Mr. Annadurai, a commerce graduate from Pachaiyappa’s College in Chennai, keeps a low profile but has been involved in the implementation of several civic infrastructure works, including construction of sub-health centres, street lights, school buildings, bus shelters, and creation of ponds through the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) funds.

NDA candidate A. Ashwathaman, 38, is currently the State secretary of the BJP’s legal cell in Tamil Nadu. Prior to joining the the BJP in 2012, Mr. Ashwathaman, was PMK’s district youth wing president for Chennai South in 2004-09. An advocate by profession and a native of Ulundurpet in Kallakurichi district, Mr. Ashwathaman said that the long-pending demand of direct train services between Chennai and Tiruvannamalai would be fulfilled. It would also help the local economy to flourish.

A native of Thenmathur village near Tiruvannamalai town, the 52-year-old M. Kaliyaperumal, AIADMK candidate for Tiruvannamalai constituency, has been in the party for more than three decades. He was also once elected councillor for Tiruvannamalai Panchayat Union. With vast knowledge at the grassroots level, Mr. Kaliyaperumal said that he knows the pulse of voters in his constituency. “Majority of voters depend on agriculture and allied activities. Water conservation through desilting and deepening of waterbodies in villages will be done,” he said.

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