August 23, 2010
Residents of Kodungaiyur left with more than just a bitter aftertaste from a kalyana mandapam in Washermanpet on June 18 this year.
Perhaps, it had something to do with the lesson in party politics that they were forced to sit through.
The public hearing on the Kodungaiyur dumpyard solid waste management programme held there was completely stage-managed by DMK cadre, while a posse of policemen stood outside as mute spectators.
A casual look around and it was difficult to take ones eyes off a group of women wearing similar sarees. These were members of an SHG and had been asked to be present there by the local Corporation councillor.
The venue was brimming with people, mainly supporters of the ruling party. On the podium were Mayor Subramanian, Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni and authorities from the Pollution Control Board. The henchmen were strategically seated in the first two rows. A postcard picture of a smiling Stalin in each cadres shirt pocket was hard to miss.
The microphone never seemed to leave the paws of the party loyalists, who hijacked the meeting and the issue at hand as they droned on about the benefits of the project. And the rest were quick to learn that a difference in opinion would immediately spell trouble. Resident Ramachandra Raos argument that the project would be futile was met with loud boos from the front rows. The microphone was snatched from him. Curiously, not a word came from any of the officials on stage.
The Mayor finally decided to break his silence when Naina Shah, an environmentalist, spoke against the project. As was expected, she too was booed. And the clincher came from the Mayor himself. “You are doing a publicity stunt. Maybe you want a contract of the project,” he snapped.
Of the 400 residents who turned up for the public hearing, only four were allowed to speak. One man was dragged away by four policemen even as he yelled, “I want to talk.” A cop justified the act by claiming he was a “problem creator”.
Watching an elderly man mutter to himself and those within earshot as he left that he wanted to get back home safely summed up the public sentiment.