TIRUVANNAMALAI: Synonymous with the hallowed Arunachaleswarar Temple and rituals such as the Deepam festival and the girivalam, Tiruvannamalai is a place popular with Hindu pilgrims. However, people in the district, who mostly depend on agriculture and daily wages, are waiting for industrial growth to brighten their lives.
With the State bracing for Assembly elections on April 6, the district too is gearing up for battle. The controversial Chennai-Salem eight-lane expressway project and infrastructure woes are the issues that would dominate electoral domain this time around. Of the eight Assembly constituencies falling under the district, the ruling AIADMK represents three – Kalasapakkam, Arni and Cheyyar, while DMK represents Chengam, Tiruvannamalai, Kilpennathur, Polur and Vandavasi.
The Rs 10,000 crore access-controlled Chennai-Salem eight-lane expressway is expected to significantly weigh in during the polls. The farming community in the district, from about 90 agrarian villages, have been up in arms against the project from the very beginning. “Farmers have taken a firm stand that they will vote for the party which genuinely promises to work for stalling the project,” says S Abiraman, the convenor of the Movement against Eight Lane Expressway.
He notes, “Not only farmers who have to forfeit their precious lands, but even others staying in the villages through which the road has been proposed, will be affected.” Inadequate infrastructure such as poor rail and road connectivity to major cities of the State and unavailability of marketing and cold storage facilities for farmers are other serious concerns. “Several years have passed after the Villupuram-Katpadi broad gauge rail link was laid.
The route holds the key to connecting central and southern districts to northern parts and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Yet, adequate number of trains are not operated,” rues ‘Pasarai’ Babu, a political activist. The Puducherry-Krishnagiri national highway project, passing through Tiruvannamalai, remains only on paper. If it fructifies, the road connectivity will help commuters, traders and farmers to travel/ferry goods to far off places such as Bengaluru, where large consignments of flowers are transported to, he notes. The Tiruvannamalai ring road project too has been dragging on for long.
Despite devotees thronging the town in lakhs during the Karthigai Deepam festival, amenities are below-par. The miseries of the agrarian community too are expected to grab attention during the polls. From reviving the groundnut oil manufacturing unit run by the Tamil Nadu Cooperative Oil Seeds Growers Federation (closed in 2001 citing loss), establishing cold storage facilities for agricultural produce, setting up of a rice research centre and a silk park at Arni - where a large number of rice mills operate and silk sarees are woven – to desilting of Sathanur dam, the pleas of the farmers are yet to be fulfilled. Flower cultivators have long been demanding a perfume factory at Chengam.