Garden turns desert post political dramas

Until a month back, it was Chennai’s Poes Garden that was with high media and public attention due to all political dramas occurring in the State. The tiny road stretch which is hardly half a kilometer long was the news making spot for whole of the State. But, the scenario has completely went upside down within a fortnight and especially in the past three days, Poes Garden has almost gone into a deep sleep posing a deserted look.

The deserted view of Poes Garden

When I visited the neighbourhood of former Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s residence at Poes Garden today, I could see that the locality which used to be under the surveillance of a five level security guards is completely open to commuters. The default pose of security personnel holding weapons, those signal jammer, barricades, metal detectors and all other security equipment were found missing except for a dozen of police personnel who were roaming in the streets.

Earlier, it would not be a mammoth task after a number of security checks to reach the gateway of Veda Nilayam, residence of Jayalalithaa. But now, only two private security guards are deployed that too at the entrance of Veda Nilayam.

When I started conversing with one of the private security personnel at the entrance of Jayalalithaa’s residence, he said out of frustration, “Not like the earlier times, but ¬†now the security has been brought down completely for this area. It would be like a festival in those times but now its not like that”. However, he further said that the residence of their Amma is still protected with at least a handful of security personnel.

Despite his friendly nature, the security personnel did not allow me to click a picture of the entrance of Veda Nilayam which I had to do without his knowledge hiding behind the power junction box.

Captured the entrance of Veda Nilayam hiding behind TNEB transfomer as I was not allowed to take the picture 

When asked how frequent these delegates, MLAs and ministers visit the place, the security personnel said, “Yes, a lot of ministers and MLAs come here often and walk into the residence of Amma. They feel this as a temple of their political career”.

However, it seemed to be an exaggerated version of the security personnel regarding the visit of any MLA or minister. One of the shop owners in Poes Garden (to whom I did not reveal myself as a journalist) said, “We are open throughout the daytime and the most part of evening everyday. From my shop it would be clearly visible for us and as far as to our knowledge, we have not seen any car entering there. Only one or two cars would come here that too on very rare instances”.

He told me that, Poes Garden lost its buzzing scenarios much earlier that no one is interested to visit the place after the death of Jayalalithaa. “Even until VK Sasikala was convicted, there were some gatherings and cadre groups, but after that, the place lost its true identity”, the shop owner expressed in a sad note. “These political cadres are so opportunistic that they have ignored this place completely once it lost its worth”, the shop keeper added.

While, according to one of the police personnel deployed for security at Poes Garden, only the maids, cooks, gardeners and servants are allowed inside Veda Nilayam and no one is residing there at present.

AIADMK headquarters posing like a desert

Meanwhile, the status of AIADMK headquarters is still worse. Not even 10 cadres of this 1.5 crore membered party were there. And I could not find even a single person to answer my queries except for the party’s founder MG Ramachandran who was standing as statue in the premises.

– Santhosh Mathevan
Chennai, April 20, 2017.

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If its pan Tamilnadu, why only Neduvasal?

Ever since 2017 unfolded, a number of issues have been rocking the State. Now, it is the turn of the anti-hyrdocarbon extraction protest. Despite the process being carried out across various hamlets and towns in the Cauvery delta region and the rest of Tamil Nadu, it all commenced at small village, Neduvasal in Pudukottai district in the form of protests started by the villagers joining hands with college students from the locality.

According to sources, the process of Hydrocarbon extraction is carried out by the ONGC through various private petro chemical industries in the country. Especially in Cauvery delta region that includes, Trichy, Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and Pudukottai districts, the hydrocarbon extraction process is likely being carried out in 16 different villages. Similarly, as many as 20 villages in Ramanathapuram district the process is being carried out.

With so many rural lands that are already being subjected to the hydrocarbon extraction process, it is the people of Neduvasal only have come to fight against the Central and the State governments to revoke the project.

When I could analyse the protesting grounds, several inferences were harvested out of it. Sources from ground zero say that it commenced as an awareness programme carried out by students of a private college in the neighbourhood. The provocation for this was an oil spill near the bore well. The students knew about the effects of fracking – a process of extracting hydrocarbon, informed the people of Neduvasal. Following this, it is said that the students joined hands with the people of Neduvasal and commenced a protest.

In the midst of this, sources from Karaikal and Nagapattinam revealed that the Central government’s public sector entity, GAIL, has been embedding gas pipelines across both the districts to transport the extracted petrochemical products beneath the agricultural lands spread over 6,000 hectares.

A small section of protesters at Neduvasal. Source: The News Minute


Voice of the protesters:

When I interacted with Raj Kumar, one of the protesters from Neduvasal, he said, ‘We see this as another Methane extraction project of the Central government just in the disguise of the name ‘Hydrocarbon’ and that is why, we have started this protest. We will not stop until the project is barred and revoked by the Union government’. He said that, there are a lot of countries across the globe including the USA and Australia have banned this method of extraction of Hydrocarbon in their territory. ‘In this juncture, we have no other go than to put an end to this all by ourselves through protest. It is our duty to save our environment’.

Villagers second the protesters:

‘We never knew that the project of hydrocarbon extraction would be this hazardous until the college students from the neighbourhood came up and gave an awareness. So, we have joined hands with them to fight for saving our landscape and water resources’, said a villager on the conditions of anonymity. He also said that, Neduvasal is a completely agriculture based village and that could be spoiled through the extraction of hydro carbon.

What do technical experts say?

According to technical experts, the contract that was signed between GEM laboratories Private Limited, (a company based out of Davangere in Karnataka, started by late BJP Member of Parliament, G Mallikarjunappa) and the land owners of Neduvasal, it does not mention any particular type of hydrocarbon. So, it could be any kind of hydrocarbon, like Petroleum products, Methane, Coal gas, Shale gas and others. In that case, if shale gas is to be extracted using the fracking process the damage could be considerably more. Likewise with methane which if it leaks has a much higher carbon emission than coal. However, due to this process, the Water table would be affected only to a certain extent to a limited area from the extraction point.

The political fallout:

With the protests being carried out by the locals and the youth of Neduvasal and other parts of the State, already several pro Tamil outfits have landed in the agriculture hamlet to show their support to the protesters. Convener of Naam Tamilar Katchi, Seeman has been carrying out visits in the village and is interacting with the people of Neduvasal. He has been stressing the people to not to stop fighting until the entire project itself is revoked by the Central government. Similarly, leader of Tamil Desiya Periyakkam, P Maniarasan has quoted this Hydrocarbon extraction process as a disguised Methane extraction project by the Central government through Great Eastern Energy Corporation Limited (GEECL).

How does the ruling party reply?

The Central government has been defending its side from the allegations of the protesters. Union Minister of State for Shipping, Pon Radhakrishnan recently in a press conference has said that the people have been induced without a proper scientific knowledge. The project right now carried out in Neduvasal is to extract only petroleum crude oil from the underground and it is not a shale gas or a methane extraction project.

Neutralists demands:

From all these inferences, neutralists and political analysts have been demanding a proper explanation from the Central and State governments to the people of Neduvasal. ‘First the Petroleum Ministry has to give an assurance that Methane and Shale gas extraction will not be done and only Oil or Natural gas in the conventional method will be extracted at Neduvasal’, says Sumanth Raman, a political analyst. Further Sumanth has asked the State Government to form a committee to supervise and ensure that safety and environment standards are being adhered to, not just at Neduvasal but also at all the other much bigger sites where exploration is going on.

‘Perhaps there can be a citizens committee that can be formed as well. The Petroleum Ministry or Oil Companies have to explain to the farmers of Neduvasal clearly what is going to be done and what measures are to be taken to minimize the damage to their lands and the environment’, he said. Farmers must also be given a revenue share in the overall extraction made from the field, Sumanth added.

Santhosh Mathevan,
Chennai, February 28, 2017.