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Karunanidhi: The leader who remained steadfast to his principles and views

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Karunanidhi, a towering political leader from the last generation with a political career spanning 75 years started as a teenager prior to Independence with Periyar’s social justice movement and continued as a mascot for Annadurai, a lieutenant of Periyar who opted for electoral politics. He was himself CM for 19 years over 5 terms and the party president of DMK for 50 years.

Professionally a dialogue writer for Tamil films he gained more prominence than the actors who delivered his dialogues. All his life he remained steadfast in his views expressed through his dialogues and prolific writing.

He was a secular opposing religion in civic affairs and rabid in his anti-Brahmanism. An advocate of social equality, he was a pioneer of affirmative action for social upliftment of the Dalits who had hitherto been excluded from political power. Avoiding populist measures as CM, he focused on developing schools and healthcare facilities to bring the underprivileged into the mainstream.

He never aspired for national politics and remained a Tamilian leader throughout his career. He was a great admirer of the Tamil language and culture and was instrumental in the development of federal polity in India as opposed to the Unitarian political culture of the Congress. At times his advocacy of Tamil rights bordered on Tamil separatism.

The only blot in his political career was his corruption because of which his one time deputy, MGR parted company to form the AIADMK. He was also criticised for his dynastic politics of later years when he tried to give charge to his daughter in the Centre, southern districts to his elder son based in Madurai while selecting his younger son Stalin as his successor. But then, a father has the responsibility to settle his children.

India was consciously divided into linguistic lines with each state having its own literature, culture, dress, food, festivals etc. The Union has by and large promoted uniformity by suppressing diversity. The federal ethos celebrates diversity and, in India especially, in my view, we have had an attempt of an excessive uniformity imposed that has been detrimental to our rich regional cultural heritages.

In that sense MK was a man advocating pride in Tamil culture. More than the relative merits of centre-state choice is the existence of the dialectic of pulls and pressures from both sides to attain a dynamic balance that keeps pace with the changing times. His anti North and anti Hindi agitations, widely criticised, must be seen in the context of promoting regional pride.

Of course, MK is very unpopular among Tamil Brahmins. But then the local Brahmins had a disproportionate hold on social and cultural power in TN for centuries. Breaking their hegemony was necessary for a social change towards greater egalitarianism. With them being pushed back, the knowledge and skills that they were custodians of, also suffered.

But then I am speaking in the capacity of a neutral bystander. Interested parties would rejoice or suffer the pangs of socio political change a lot more acutely.

His legacy is important to understand the implications of equality, secularism, federation and social change – issues that are in focus in our political discourse right now.

If only the conversation can move beyond his obvious corruption.

National

Centre trying to implement ₹900 cr sericulture projects in North East

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Itanagar | The Centre is trying to implement Rs 900 crore sericulture projects in the North East to empower farmers and weavers, Union Minister for Textile Smriti Irani on Friday said.

Launching the Integrated Large Scale Eri Farming in Arunachal Pradesh under North East Region Textile Promotion Scheme (NERTPS) at the state assembly here, Irani said the government has decided to provide financial assistance to 4000 beneficiaries under the scheme in the state.

Irani also assured to impart skill training to seri farmers and weavers under the Samarth Scheme, which was launched for capacity building in the textile sector.

There are 27000 looms and 33000 hand-loom weavers in Arunachal Pradesh.

Initially, the project would cover five districts of the state – namely Papumpare, East Kameng, Siang, East Siang and West Siang.

The union minister said that Eri silk farming would be held in about 1000 acres in the chosen districts.

If any registered weaver wants to upgrade their old looms then the government would give 90 percent financial assistance in buying a new one, she added.

“If the children of poor weaver families want to pursue higher studies either through National Institute of Open Schooling or Indira Gandhi National Open University, the government will bear 75 percent of their fees,” she said.

Union Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju said the traditional weaving culture in the state provides vast opportunity for textile sector and NERTPS is a scheme for women empowerment and employment generation.

Later interacting with the weavers, Irani suggested registration and branding of the loin loom products of every tribe in the state, a Raj Bhawan communique informed.

“This will facilitate access of the loin loom products to international markets,” she added.

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204 lions died in Gir in last two years: Gujarat government

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Gandhinagar | Over 200 lions died in the Gir forest region in the last two years, the Gujarat government told the legislative Assembly on Friday.

Only 27 of these deaths were because of “unnatural” causes such as getting hit by a train or falling into a well, it said.

To a query by Congress’ Bhagabhai Barad, forest minister Ganpat Vasava, in a written reply, said 110 lions and 94 cubs died in 2017 and 2018.

Of the 110 adult lions, 43 died in 2017 and 67 in 2018. Thirty-eight cubs died in 2017 and 56 in 2018, the reply said.

Of the 204 deaths, 27 (21 lions and six cubs) were because of “unnatural causes” such as falling into a well or being run over by a train, the minister said.

Vasava also said that 331 leopards, including 75 cubs, died in Gujarat forests in the last two years, adding the state government was taking various steps to prevent deaths due to unnatural causes.

Some of these preventive measures are building parapets around wells, fencing railway tracks, construction of speed breakers on roads passing through sanctuaries and continuous patrolling, the reply said.

To a question by Congress MLA Pratap Dudhat about the viral infection among lions last year, Vasava said 34 lions died in the last one year due to diseases including Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) infection.

Babesia, Streptococcal bacteria and Gram-negative bacilli infections were also responsible for some of these deaths, the minister said.

The government allocated Rs 21.96 crore for lion conservation in Gir in 2017 and Rs 27.89 crore in 2018, while the contribution of the Union government was Rs 1.92 crore and 1.06 crore for the last two years, he said.

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Rahul offers condolences over spurious liquor deaths in Assam’s Golaghat

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New Delhi | Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday offered condolences to the families of those who died after consuming spurious liquor in Assam’s Golaghat district.

At least 30 people, including seven women, died allegedly after consuming the liquor at a tea garden. Fifty others are undergoing treatment at various hospitals, a district official said.

“I am saddened by the incident which occurred in Assam’s Golaghat area. My deepest condolences to the families of the victims. I hope that those undergoing treatment get well soon,” Gandhi said in a Facebok post.

It is believed that more than 100 people — labourers at Salimira tea garden — consumed the spurious liquor on Thursday night, BJP MLA Mrinal Saikia said.

Police have arrested two people in connection with the deaths.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has ordered an inquiry into the incident. Two excise officials of the district have been suspended.

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