PUDUCHERRY: An enclave that speaks Tamil, another where the people speak Telugu and yet another where the language is Malayalam; all three lying far off from the Centre raising constant complaints that they have been neglected by the administration regardless of who is ruling. The Union Territory of Puducherry, that tiny former French settlement on the eastern coast of India, is an almost perfect microcosm of India itself.
In search of power in this Union Territory, parties have to stitch their campaigns and agenda that would appeal to three different cultures lying in these non-contiguous enclaves, a challenging task to say the least. While this gives a quaint charm to the UT, people from these areas say being far from the seat of power has had a big impact on their development. They are often neglected without adequate funds, stunting development of even basic infrastructure facilities.
According to S P Selvashanmugam, the convenor of Karaikal Struggle Group (KSG), the outfit that has been undertaking agitations against successive governments, under the French rule, they had worked out a way to allot funds proportionate to the population. But after Indian governments were formed, the funds for these enclaves reduced substantially. “Now it is only a meagre amount, which has resulted in the backwardness of the region,” he said.
■ Karaikal, spread across 160 sq km, is inside Tamil Nadu, about 150 km from the UT
■ Yanam, a 30 sq km expanse inside Andhra Pradesh, is 824 km by road from Puducherry
■ Mahe, inside Kerala, is the smallest, spread across nine sq km. It is about 710 km from UT
The situation is no different in the other two enclaves. Yanam in Andhra, for instance, where there were a number of industries once is now in a sorry state of affairs. Facing issues ranging from workers’ protests like the one that led to the closure of Regency Ceramics to VAT and other issues like absence of any special incentives to set up shop there, industrial houses are shifting their base to other states that are extending special offers.
The policy makers are yet to tap the full potential of tourism in any of these three regions. For example, the Lord Shani Temple in Thirunallar in Karaikal attracts thousands of devotees annually, but it lacks the much needed basic amenities for the visitors.