Monday, June 13, 2011

“Stop targeting me on Sri Lanka issue”

M.KarunanidhiFormer Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi has appealed to his political adversaries to stop targeting him on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue while enthusiastically welcoming the resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu Assembly calling for economic sanctions on the island nation and declaration of those who committed crimes during the war as war criminals.

In a letter in the party mouthpiece ‘Murasoli', he wondered why several people had chosen to make disparaging remarks against him while speaking on the resolution, which dealt with “atrocities” perpetrated by the Sri Lankan government on the Tamil population there. He lamented that all his initiatives aimed at bringing about an end to military operations had been described as a “farce” or a “fraudulent drama” by Chief Minister Jayalalithaa. Mr. Karunanidhi recounted his contribution to peace and welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils since 1956. Both DMK general secretary K.Anbazhagan and he resigned from the State Assembly in 1983 in order to draw the Centre's attention to the problem.

He also recalled his efforts to get the help of the Central government in finding a lasting solution to the Sri Lankan Tamils issue through the 1990s. Besides, in 2008, the State Assembly passed a resolution urging the Union Government to arrange for a dialogue and help bring about peace through a political solution.

Also in 2008, Mr. Karunanidhi said, he had taken up the issue of genocide of innocent Tamils in Sri Lanka and wanted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to intervene and put an end to the army action against them. Once again in 2009, a resolution was passed in the State Assembly wherein he had announced that he was prepared to sacrifice power if it could lead to the birth of Tamil Eelam, he said.

At the same time, the DMK leader alleged that it was Ms. Jayalalithaa, who had been ridiculing his efforts all along. She had even said that there was suspicion among the people of Tamil Nadu whether Mr. Karunanidhi was acting in support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Besides, she had asserted that the Central government had no powers to stop the internecine war in Sri Lanka. “Then how is that she now moves a resolution in the Assembly appealing to the Central government?”

Mr. Karunanidhi said she had once asserted that the Sri Lankan army was not deliberately killing innocent Tamils and that “it is quite natural that innocent people also get killed during times of war.” After saying so without any compassion, she had now chosen to move a resolution as if she was genuinely interested in the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils, the DMK leader said.

Supreme Court issues notice to CBI on Kanimozhi’s bail plea

DMK Member of Parliament Kanimozhi arrives at the Patiala House courts in New Delhi for the hearing on the 2G spectrum case. File photoThe Supreme Court on Monday sought the Central Bureau of Investigation’s response on Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam MP Kanimozhi’s bail plea and also wanted to know the status of Rs. 200 crore allegedly given to Kalaignar TV.

Terming corruption as the worst form of “human rights violation”, the apex court asked the CBI to estimate loss accrued to the exchequer on account of licences issued to telecom operators during the tenure of A. Raja as Telecom minister.

Status report

A bench comprising justices B.S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar also asked the investigating agency to inform it about the status of trial in the 2G case before a CBI special court.

The court granted a week’s time to the CBI to file its response on the bail plea of Ms. Kanimozhi and Sharad Kumar, MD of Kalaignar TV.

Ms. Kanimozhi and Mr. Kumar, named as accused in the second charge sheet for allegedly taking bribe of Rs 200 crore, were arrested on May 20 after the special court dismissed their bail pleas in the case.

Both Mr. Kanimozhi and Mr. Kumar have 20 per cent stake each in Kalaignar TV Pvt Ltd, which allegedly received Rs 200 crore through a “circuitous” route from Shahid Balwa promoted DB Realty.
The matter has been posted for further hearing on June 20.

Jayalalithaa arrives Delhi, to meet PM tomorrow

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister. J. Jayalalithaa slautes while inspecting the Gaurd of Honour on her arrival at Tamil Nadu House in New Delhi on June 13, 2011. Photo: S. Subramanium
Apparently giving mixed signals, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa today met leaders of both allies and rival parties soon after her arrival here for a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, BJP leader Ravi Shanker Prasad and CPI leader D Raja among the personalities who met the AIADMK supremo during her first visit here after last month’s elections.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s congratulatory telephone call to Ms. Jayalalithaa after her spectacular victory in the assembly polls fuelled speculation of a meeting between the two during her first visit here.
But Ms. Gandhi is said to be away from the capital and a meeting between the two is unlikely now.
While Ms. Dikshit declined to comment on the meeting, Mr. Prasad, who was accompanied by his wife, described it as a courtesy call.
“Occasionally we talked about national politics. We reflected upon the current general situation of the country”, he said.
Mr. Prasad said he told her that her party’s victory was a victory for democracy because it was earlier stated that DMK could retain power on the strength of money power.
On the meeting, he said when he had called to congratulate her, she had said she would meet him when she was in Delhi.
Mr. Prasad said his wife was an admirer of Jayalalithaa and had asked her whether she was a law graduate. The Chief Minister replied that she was not even a graduate but “sometimes I correct the notings of my lawyer”, he quoted her as saying.
Mr. D. Raja, Rajya Sabha member of AIADMK ally CPI, said that he did not discuss politics but only the problems confronting the State like financial difficulties and the power issue.
He said that the Chief Minister would be meeting the Prime Minister and present a memorandum to seek active support of the Centre for improving the economic situation in the State.
Asked about Ms. Dikshit calling on Ms. Jayalalithaa, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said both Congress and DMK have spoken about the alliance between the two parties.
“Obviously an elected Chief Minister might consider appropriate to meet the Prime Minister which is in the domain of the government”, he said.
During her meeting with Dr. Singh, Ms. Jayalalithaa is expected to discuss issues like Sri Lankan Tamils and various developmental projects in her State.
The issue of Indian fishermen being allegedly attacked by Sri Lankan Navy when they cross into its waters inadvertently is also expected to be discussed during with her meeting with Dr. Singh on Tuesday.

118.6-km ECR stretch nearing completion

A bridge being constructed across Vettar in Nagapattinam district. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
The Nagapattinam-Kattumaavadi stretch of the East Coast Road (ECR) project of the Department of Highways in the Kumbakonam region is nearing completion.
The 118.6-km project entails three bypasses and a bridge across river Vettar in Nagore. The project include a 10.2-km bypass around Nagapattinam; a 3.1 km bypass around Thiruthiraipoondi; and a 4.8-km bypass around Muthupettai.
All the three bypass roads have been completed, and work on the Vettar bridge is under progress. The bridge that forms part of the Nagapattinam bypass is 463 metre long with 15 spans of 30 metre each.
Fourteen spans have been completed, girders are being placed, and parapet walls are yet to be raised for 10 spans. Approach roads to the length of 50 metres towards Nagore and 100 metres towards Nagapattinam are to be laid.
The project is being implemented at a cost of Rs.198.77 crore, with World Bank fund. The project, with an initial concession period of 36 months, was scheduled for completion by the first quarter of 2008. However, owing to a shortage in sand and labour, it could not be completed as per the schedule. The project is slated for completion by August.
The completion of the Vettar bridge would wean pilgrim, passenger or transit traffic and commercial traffic away from Nagapattinam town.

Tamil Nadu a wetland-rich State: national atlas

The drought-prone and arid districts of Ramanathapuram, Pudukottai, Sivaganga and Villupuram in the State have a very good distribution of wetlands.
The National Wetland Atlas, prepared by the Ahmedabad-based Space Applications Centre (SAC) of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), has classified Puducherry and Tamil Nadu as wetland-rich States as they have 12.88 per cent and 6.92 per cent of geographic area under wetlands respectively.
Lakshadweep leads with 96.12 per cent of its geographic area under wetlands, followed by Andaman & Nicobar Islands (18.52%), Daman & Diu (18.46%) and Gujarat (17.56%).
In Tamil Nadu, wetlands occupy as high as 18.05 per cent of the geographic area in Ramanathapuram and as low as 1.08 per cent in Coimbatore.
In terms of total wetland area, Kancheepuram is the leading district with 80,445 hectares (8.91%) and Chennai has the smallest area, 917 ha (0.10%).
While Ramanathapuram and Pudukottai have over 70,000 ha as total wetland area, Sivaganga and Villupuram have over 60,000 ha and Tiruvannamalai and Nagapatinam districts have a wetland area of over 50,000 ha.
Lake/pond and tank/pond are the dominant wetland types found in all the districts, accounting for 61 per cent. About 4,369 natural lakes and ponds have a total wetland area of 3.16 lakh ha. And there are 19,343 man-made tanks and ponds with a total wetland area of 2.37 lakh ha. Pudukottai district has the highest area under lake/pond (38,966 ha) as well as tank/pond (26,419 ha). Most of the major lakes and tanks were created during the rule of monarchs.
Only small tanks and percolation ponds have been created in the post-Independence era.
In coastal areas, lagoons, inter-tidal mudflats and salt pans are the dominating wetland types.
Lagoons are observed in eight districts, with Tiruvallur leading in terms of area. Salem district leads in area under reservoir/barrage. While mangrove type has been observed in 11 districts, coral reef is restricted to Ramanathapuram and Tuticorin. Point Calimere Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary has been cited as an important wetland of the country in the atlas.
“The objective of the atlas is to protect the wetlands. Due to development and population pressure, wetlands are being slowly encroached upon, especially in urban areas, to facilitate infrastructure and housing needs. The atlas will help the government to identify and protect wetlands,” says Prof. M. Ramalingam, Director, Institute of Remote Sensing, Anna University.
The institute was part of the team of the centres that assisted the SAC team led by Sushma Panigrahy in preparing the wetland atlas which was sponsored by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Samacheer Kalvi: Supreme Court to hear TN plea tomorrow

File photo of class I and VI textbooks framed under the Samacheer Kalvi Thittam.
The Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday the Jayalalithaa government’s appeal challenging a Madras High Court order directing the State to continue with the implementation of the Samacheer Kalvi Thittam (uniform system of school education).
The Supreme Court agreed to take up the matter on priority after senior counsel P.P. Rao and State Additional Advocate General Guru Krishna Kumar submitted the matter needs urgent hearing as it involves academic activities of thousands of children.
The Tamil Nadu Uniform System of School Education Act introduced in 2010-2011 by the previous Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government had introduced a common curriculum for school children till Class X.
However, in the first week of June, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government, on being voted back to power, brought an amendment by introducing Section 3 under which it sought to withhold implementation of the Act and revert to the earlier curriculum.
On June 10, the Madras High Court stayed the operation of the amendment, saying for classes I and VI under the scheme, the syllabus, which came into effect from 2010-11, would continue.