ERODE: Erode owes its prosperity to a deal struck by MA Easwaran of the Congress with the premier aspirant of the Madras Presidency in 1946. Fielded by Congress, Easwaran was elected unopposed to the Legislative Assembly. Andhra Kesari T Prakasam, who was in the race for the premier's post, approached Easwaran seeking his support. The latter offered his vote with the condition that Prakasam agreed to construct what would become the Bhavanisagar reservoir. Though Prakasam won, the deal fell through as there were strong demands for a dam in Mettupalayam. and Easwaran resigned his post.
"Then the Coimbatore Collector approached Easwaran with an invitation from Prakasam. The latter asked Easwaran how many acres he owned in the lower Bhavani area, and he stunned him saying he owned 2.07 lakh acres. In truth, Easwaran and his family did not own even one cent. Moved by Easwaran's commitment to his electorate, Prakasam initiated the construction of the dam," Selvam of Tamilaga Iyarkai Vivasayigal Sangam recalled.
Built in the confluence of the Bhavani and Moyar rivers, the reservoir changed the fortunes of people in Erode, a district with scanty rainfall and dry climate. "Before the dam was constructed, there was no difference between a landowner and agricultural worker. Both were in the same economic condition," said Selvam.
Before the dam, farmers depended on rains and water from the Bhavani river. A little more than 50,000 acres was irrigated with water from the Kalingarayan canal, Thadapalli-Arakankottai canals and Mettur west bank canal.
Construction of the 105-feet structure was completed on August 19, 1955 at a cost of Rs 10.34 crores. The mammoth reservoir helped irrigate around 2.07 lakh acres in Erode, Tiruppur and Karur. "It is ironic that the man (Easwaran) who helped Erode prosper, later had to write to a friend asking for rice," Selvam added.
"We requested several politicians to extend their support to honour Easwaran with a memorial pillar. But because he was not from a dominant community which would win them votes, politicians were not interested," claimed Nallasamy, president of Keezh Bhavani Farmers' Association.