Ekanapuram villagers arguing with revenue and police officials
Ekanapuram villagers arguing with revenue and police officials(Photo | | Martin Louis, EPS)

Just 21 of 1,375 in Ekanapuram reach booth; ARO’s visit to village sparks stir

A polling booth was set up at the panchayat union school in Ekanapuram, and voting commenced promptly at 7 am.

CHENNAI: Amidst the ongoing protests against the proposed Parandur green airport project, only 21 out of the 1,375 eligible voters in Kancheepuram district’s Ekanapuram village took part in the voting process on Friday. Upon visiting the village, TNIE witnessed tense arguments between the villagers and officials, including Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) and Sriperumbudur Tahsildar Sundaramurthy.

The villagers alleged that the ARO visited the village assistant Ezhilarasan’s family on Friday and urged them to cast their votes, which is in violation of the ECI regulation that among other activities, no campaigning to increase polling should also be taken up after Wednesday evening.

A polling booth was set up at the panchayat union school in Ekanapuram, and voting commenced promptly at 7 am. By noon, only 10 voters, mostly government employees, had cast their votes. Upset over the poor turnout, the ARO personally visited Ezhilarasan’s house and attempted to persuade his family to turn up at the booth. This irked the villagers and they picked up an argument with the ARO and said that he had no right to enter the houses of the residents.

The villagers also blocked the ARO’s vehicle parked near the house. Kancheepuram police officials pacified the crowd and they allowed the ARO’s vehicle to pass after an hour. When TNIE contacted Ezhilarasan to find out what happened at his house, he said nothing wrong had happened in his house. Meanwhile, ARO Sundaramoorthy was not available for comment.

K Ellappan (72) and S Sathya (43), who reside in Ekanapuram village, told TNIE, “We have been protesting for the past 632 days against the proposed Parandur airport. A couple of days ago, Kancheepuram revenue and police officials visited the village, instructing voters that those wishing to register their votes could cast them. But, the ARO visiting the village assistant’s house and persuading his family members to come to the booth amounts to a violation of MCC and human rights.”

They further underlined that they did not instruct anyone not to vote, but that the residents of the village boycotted the election of their own volition. “We are fighting to save our agricultural lands, homes, and cattle. All this could be destroyed to pave the way for the airport. Before the elections, politicians from different parties came here and voiced support for us. But, after the announcement of the Lok Shaba election, no one visited the village even for campaigning. Our protests will continue until the proposed project is dropped,” they added.

Meanwhile, only 21 voters from the village cast their votes. Subramanian, a resident of the village, told TNIE, “All these 21 persons are government employees. Out of the 52 government employees in the village, only 21 cast their votes. They must have done so to protect their jobs. We understand their concerns also.”

Ennore residents cast vote

Despite the ongoing protest against the Coromandel fertiliser plant and resentment against the state government in Ennore, the polling stations in the area witnessed steady polling on Friday. Earlier, there were calls from a section of protestors to consider a poll boycott.

However, the idea was shelved due to a lack of consensus among the protesting villages. There was no unanimous call for a poll boycott nor support for any one candidate.

“The villagers were advised to vote as per their wish,” said a member of the protesting committee. The booths in Ernavoor Kuppam, Periya Kuppam and Thazhan Kuppam recorded brisk polling. “We have our apprehensions, but we cannot desist from doing our democratic duty,” said Malathy, a resident of Thalankuppam.

(With inputs from Mohan)

The New Indian Express