Raids in Tamil Nadu

Published : Mar 30, 2002 00:00 IST

IF the raids on the residences of former Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) Ministers and legislators in different parts of Tamil Nadu were aimed at unnerving and silencing them, the purpose does not seem to have been served. DMK president and former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi has served notice that his party will fight it out. At the General Council meeting of his party on March 24, Karunanidhi presented shawls to the six persons whose houses had been raided. He congratulated them and said, "We will take a vow that we will face these challenges."

Karunanidhi recalled how when the DMK was in power in 1996, the raids conducted on the residence of Jayalalithaa, then out of power, yielded jewellery, silk sarees, wristwatches, silver vessels, and documents relating to the purchase of several bungalows, a tea estate and a grape garden, deposits in banks and so forth, totally valued at Rs.66.44 crores. By comparison, what the police found in the recent raids was peanuts, he remarked. The DMK would be part of the NDA at the Centre, Karunanidhi said.

The latest raids, by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) on March 15 and 16, specifically targeted K. Ponmudi, Transport Minister from 1996 to 2001, and now representing Villupuram in the Assembly. The DVAC teams raided Ponmudi's houses in Chennai and Villupuram, and his brothers', relatives' and a former colleague's homes at Chennai, Pondicherry, Cuddalore and Villupuram and in Andhra Pradesh.

Simultaneous searches were conducted in the houses of former Adi Dravidar Welfare Minister Samyanallur S. Selvaraj, former Tourism Minister N. Suresh Rajan, former Khadi and Village Industries Minister Andhiyur Selvaraj, former Backward Classes Minister M.R.K. Paneerselvam, former Tuticorin MLA N. Periasamy and former Madurai Corporation Mayor P. Kulandaivelu. The raids took place in Chennai, Madurai, Villupuram, Muttam, Nagercoil, and Tuticorin.

DVAC officials said 550 sovereigns of gold jewellery, documents relating to the purchase of houses, expensive television sets, air-conditioners, electronic goods, furniture and vehicles had been found. Cases had been filed against all of them for possessing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income, they said.

The raids took place a few hours after Jayalalithaa, who was sworn in Chief Minister on March 2, and Ponmudi clashed in the Assembly on March 15. She accused him of ruining the State-owned transport corporations when he was Transport Minister. Ponmudi vehemently contested the charge. The previous day she had promised to place in the Assembly material evidence for irregularities committed by Ponmudi in the transport corporations. But she did not do so, saying such a step would be of "no use". "The government will take legal action against him and let him reply in the court," she said.

In June 2001, Ponmudi had taken reporters to a godown belonging to the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation to disprove Jayalalithaa's allegation that the previous DMK regime had bought rotten rice for sale to cardholders.

According to DMK sources, the raids were conducted to silence Ponmudi and Paneerselvam who were a bee in the bonnet for Jayalalithaa's All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in the Assembly. Besides, according to them, the DMK leaders targeted now had worked hard to serve Jayalalithaa's defeat in the recent election in the Andipatti Assembly Constituency. The raids are also seen as a warning to these leaders against organising agitations in their districts if Karunanidhi and his son M.K. Stalin (Chennai Corporation Mayor) were to be arrested again.

T.S. SubramanianM.S. Swaminathan to head Pugwash

ON March 14, Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, international farm scientist, institution-builder and one of the most influential voices today in the subcontinent and Chairman of the Chennai-based M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, was unanimously elected to preside over the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs for the next five years. Dr. Swaminathan is not only the first Indian but also the first farm scientist to head the Pugwash Conference, which won the 1995 Nobel Prize for peace for its contribution to nuclear disarmament.

The Pugwash Conference emerged in 1957 out of a manifesto that was issued in 1955 by 11 scientists, including Bertrand Russel and Albert Einstein. This manifesto urged scientists, regardless of their political persuasions, to get together and discuss the threat that the advent of thermonuclear weapon posed to civilisation. By 1999 Pugwash had convened 250 conferences the world over, which were attended by over 10,000 scientists, scholars and public figures.

Over the years Pugwash has widened its mandate to include developmental and environmental issues. The communique from Pugwash to Dr. Swaminathan reads: "Your international standing as a scientist and your concern for peaceful development would be a great asset for Pugwash and help us in our aim of ensuring a stable and secure world."

Dr. Swaminathan says: "It is a great challenge to head an organisation like Pugwash, which has had as its head several great human beings. I consider this a great honour." According to him, the Pugwash of the 21st century is broadening its discourse as the challenges being faced by the world are greater now. While there are no macro world wars, endless mini-wars, such as those against Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), drugs, hunger and epidemics, are raging. Diversity and pluralism, once considered the strengths of society, are increasingly becoming issues of intolerance and controversy. These issues, according to Swaminathan need to be addressed immediately.

The road map of Pugwash for the next five years, says Dr. Swaminathan, includes the identification of areas where unity among human beings can be forged. According to Swaminathan, where hunger prevails, peace cannot remain. Thus, eradicating endemic hunger should be the Pugwash conference's priority action area, he says.

Asha Krishnakumar
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