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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Why is Tamil Nadu angry?

Why is Tamil Nadu angry?

From the Jallikattu protests to the fishing rights issue and the drought stir by the state's farmers in Delhi, Tamil Nadu is being rocked by almost continuous protests

MDMK chief Vaiko with farmers from Tamil Nadu during a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: PTIPremium
MDMK chief Vaiko with farmers from Tamil Nadu during a protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: PTI

Chennai: Protests over a slew of issues that have rocked Tamil Nadu seem to have spilled beyond the southern state, with scores of peasants demonstrating in New Delhi for nearly a fortnight, carrying skulls of farmers who have committed suicide.

Last week, the centre approved a financial assistance package of over Rs2,014 crore for Tamil Nadu as against the state government’s demand of Rs39,565 crore for drought relief. Tamil Nadu is facing its worst drought in 140 years.

Simmering discontent was on display during the third week of January when the state had come to a near halt with thousands on the streets protesting against the ban on Jallikattu, the bull-taming sport.

Last month, the villagers of Neduvasal in Pudukkottai district came together to protest against the centre’s hydrocarbon extraction project. Within a day they had mobilized huge crowd and support starting pouring in from the other districts and across the Tamil diaspora too.

Is the Tamil Nadu government doing enough for drought-hit farmers?

While this agitation was still on, a 21-year-old fisherman K. Britjo was shot dead, allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy, leading to demonstrations and a hunger strike over the issue of fishing rights.

“After the Jallikattu protests, people have realised if they mobilise and demand their needs, they would be successful," said Parthiban Vairavan, one of the core members of Neduvasal protest.

Tamil Nadu accounted for almost 25% of the total number of protests in India between 2009 and 2014—more agitations than any other state. According to an India Spend report, Tamil Nadu saw 109,548 demonstrations during the period—nearly three times the number in Punjab that tailed a distant second with 40,513 demonstrations.

“At the grassroots, throughout the year there have been protests for various issues across the state. The media did not care to show them or write about them," said writer Gnani Sankaran.

ALSO READ | Forget cruelty to animals, Jallikattu champions casteism and gender bias

G. Sundarrajan of Poovulagin Nanbargal, an organization that has been spearheading environmental movements, said that the protests against the nuclear power station in Kudankulam marks the beginning of the recent spate of protests.

“Though the struggle for environmental protection has been happening at different levels, before the Kudankulam protests in 2011-12, no one discussed ecological or environmental issues in the mainstream," he said.

Since 2011, over 8,000 villagers protesting against the nuclear power plant have been slapped with sedition charges.

“The political elites have been completely indifferent, never assessed the demands of the people and didn’t care about public opinion. Only after people come out on the streets with these mass demonstrations has the government realized that people are unhappy," said Ramu Manivannan, head of the department of politics and public administration, Madras University.

Tamil Nadu hydrocarbon project sees protests from farmers, environmentalists

With Tamil Nadu finance minister D. Jayakumar claiming that the net outstanding debt of the state government would rise to Rs3.14 trillion and revenue deficit estimated at Rs15,930 crore for the financial year 2017-18, things do not appear promising.

Analysts claimed there’s no road map for revenue generation and no visible effort to reverse the economic downtrend. “There is an overall frustration among the public. Though the common man may not be aware of what exactly has gone wrong, there is a collective sense that things are amiss," said Sundarrajan.

Analysts also said that while governance has been in shambles since the death of chief minister J. Jayalalithaa in December leaders are failing to understand the growing aspirations of the people.

“With the Dravidian parties having betrayed their ideology, the state of Tamil Nadu is going through an intellectual and political vacuum," said Manivannan.

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Published: 27 Mar 2017, 02:39 AM IST
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