CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O. Pannerselvam has declared the state drought-affected, after several farmers committed suicide and the opposition mounted blistering attacks on the government.
The chief minister has declared all districts in the state affected by drought and announced measures to offer relief.
Panneerselvam admitted 17 farmers have taken their own lives, while opposition parties have put the figure at over 70.
The chief minister announced Rs300,000 each as an ex-gratia payment for each family which has lost its bread-earner.
The state is yet to make a demand for central assistance. Neighbouring Karnataka had demanded Rs47 billion and got Rs17 billion.
The criticism against the Tamil Nadu government has been that it turned a blind eye to the peril of the farmers as its attention was focused on late chief minister J. Jayalalithaa’s illness.
Panneerselvam also announced complete waiver on land tax and announced sops to help farmers sail through the drought situation.
Interestingly, the announcement was made late on Tuesday to the press only, while officials acknowledged on Wednesday that a notification is yet to be issued.
The move obviously is aimed at silencing opposition criticism and cooling the nerves of farmers.
The ruling Anna DMK party, meanwhile, on Wednesday claimed credit for the Centre’s decision to revert back to a national holiday for Pongal festival which falls on Saturday.
The Centre had made it a restricted holiday for its staff, drawing fire from all parties. DMK leader MK Stalin had announced a protest march for Wednesday.
The Centre aborted that by restoring the national holiday status late on Tuesday. All parties had demanded the measure, but the ADMK gave the credit to its new general secretary Sasikala Natarajan, whose image it is trying to cultivate.
ADMK Twitter handle claimed that Chinnamma or younger mother had urged the Centre to restore the holiday and the Centre had obliged.
“Following the efforts taken by the general secretary of AIADMK respected Chinnamma, who in her statement urged the Central government to roll back the announcement of Pongal as restricted holidays, the Central government has today declared the festival as compulsory holiday. Tamil speaking people across the globe thanked, respected Chinnamma profusely for her efforts and said the good governance of Amma is still continuing,” it said.
Also on Wednesday the Centre promised a delegation of ADMK members of parliament that it will consider legislation to restore the Jallikattu or bull-taming sport that has been banned by the Supreme Court which saw cruelty against animals in it.
ADMK leader M Thambidurai urged the Centre to bring an ordinance permitting the sport, saying it represented the sentiment of the Tamil people and that the festival must be conducted this year at all costs.