Search This Blog

Friday, September 11, 2020

the iconoclast - Mahakavi Subramanya Barathiyar

Sept. 11, is remembered World over for various reasons ! -   on this day 19 years ago (in 2001) -  two planes were flown into the famous twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. 19 terrorists associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. The third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, DC, and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Over 3,000 people were killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The 9/11 attack triggered major US initiatives to combat terrorism.

Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths. In New York, a dispute over coronavirus-safety precautions is leading to split-screen remembrances Friday, one at the September 11 memorial plaza at the World Trade Centre and another on a nearby corner. The Pentagon’s observance will be so restricted that not even victims’ families can attend, though small groups can visit the memorial there later in the day. Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden are both headed — at different times — to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 

There is news that hundreds of relatives of those killed on Sept. 11 have sued Saudi Arabia, joining many others who have tried to hold the kingdom responsible for the attacks. Like other actions, the lawsuit filed capitalizes on   decision by US Congress to let victims sue Saudi Arabia. It seeks unspecified damages.  Earlier attempts to hold Saudi Arabia responsible over the past 15 years have failed. Fifteen of the 19 attackers who hijacked planes to carry out the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania were Saudis.

This is no post on Terror attacks on  WTC or the US response but tributes to the great Mahakavi Subramanya Barathiyar. "பாருக்குள்ளே நல்லநாடு - இந்தப் பாரதநாடு"-  என தேச சிந்தனையே  தம்  உயிர்  மூச்சாக வாழ்ந்தவர் மஹாகவி சுப்பிரமணிய பாரதியார். இந்திய சுதந்திரப் போராட்டக் காலத்தில் ஆங்கில ஆட்சியரின் கைது நடவடிக்கையிலிருந்து தப்பிப்பதற்காக , 1918 - ஆம் ஆண்டு மன்னர்குடி அடுத்துள்ள மேல நாகை என்ற கிராமத்திற்கு வந்த பாரதியார். அங்கிருந்த, கொடியாலம் வி.கே.ரெங்கசாமி ஐயங்காருக்கு சொந்தமான பங்களாவில் பத்து நாள் சுந்தரம் ஐயர் என்ற பெயரில் தலைமறைவாக வாழ்ந்துள்ளார். அந்த காலக்கட்டத்தில் தான், பாருக்குள்ளே நல்லநாடு எங்கள் பாரத நாடு என்ற நாட்டு விடுதலைக்கான பாடலை பாரதியார் எழுதியுள்ளார். - நன்றி இன்றைய தினமணி இதழ்.  

பார்மீது நான் சாகாதிருப்பேன், காண்பீர்!

மலிவுகண்டீர் இவ்வுண்மை பொய்கூறேன் யான் !!,

மடிந்தாலும் பொய்கூறேன் மானுடர்க்கே,

நலிவுமில்லை;  சாவுமில்லை,கேளீர்,கேளீர்!  

சுப்ரமணிய பாரதியார் ~ ஒரு உன்னத பிறவி.   கவிதைகள் வாயிலாக மக்களின் மனதில் விடுதலை உணர்வை ஊட்டியவர். இவர் ஒரு கவிஞர் மட்டுமல்லாமல் ஒரு எழுத்தாளர், பத்திரிக்கை ஆசிரியர், சமூக சீர்திருத்தவாதி - தன்  காலத்துக்கு  மிகவும் பல்லாண்டுகள்  பிறகு நடக்க வல்லவை பற்றி  கூர் நோக்குடன் சிந்தித்தவர்.  நம் கருத்துக்களை ஏன் மக்கள் எதிர்க்கிறார்கள் என்று ஒருநாள் கண்ணன் கேட்டார். அதற்கு பாரதி,  ‘ஏனெனில் நம் கருத்துக்கள் இன்னும் நானூறு ஆண்டுகள் கழித்து சொல்லப்பட வேண்டியவை. இவர்களால் புரிந்துகொள்ள முடியாது’ என்றார்.  பாரதி மஹாகவி மட்டுமல்லன் ! ~ கவிதை அவர்க்கு சரஸ்வதி தேவியின் வரம்.  அவரது சிந்தனை, வார்த்தைகள்,  செயல் எல்லாமே தேசபக்தி. விடுதலை உணர்வு ~  ஆங்கிலேயர்க்கு அடிமைப்பட்டிருந்த பாரதத்தை  உலுக்கி   எழுப்பின  அவர்தம்  பாடல்கள். அவர்தம் எண்ணங்கள் காலத்தை கடந்தவை.  உண்மையிலேயே அவர் தாம் வாழ்ந்த காலத்தினை தாண்டி சிந்தனை கொண்ட தீர்க்கதரிசி.


For most people, Sept. 11 draws remembrance to that ghastly terrorist attack that shook the United States.  Sept. 11, 2001, will always be recognized as a day of tribulation in the United States. Some 3,000 people lost their lives in multiple terrorist attacks, the largest one being the fall of the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York City. Thousands of first responders and civilians risked their lives to save others.  It is 19  years since – for some life has changed, for it stands frozen and there are those who are deeply impacted by that ghastly act of terrorism.   

Back home, tributes to the great poet Barathiyar is flowing in every media – saw a tweet and photo of Pondy CM garlanding the tribute of Mahakavi too.  The man, the fighter, the poet Mahakavi Subrahmanya Bharathiyar.  He was a Genius, Extrovert, Patriot, Poet,  Thinker, man who dreamed beyond his time,  an eternal Optimist, man with die-hard spirit, motivator, man capable of uniting great minds, natural leader – all rolled one. Most unfortunate thing was his age – his life was too short - he lived for only 39 years and passed away 99 years ago.

Mahakavi Subramanya Barathi lived at  Thulasinga Perumal Kovil Street (TP Koil Street) during his last years – he was a tenant in a small portion (single room) in the  house seen here. 


The man who was to become an iconoclastic freedom fighter was born in a small village called Ettayapuram on Dec 11, 1882. His  parents  Chinnasami Subramanya Iyer and Lakhsmiammaal named him Subbaiah. V At the age of seven, Subbiah started writing poems in Tamil. When he was eleven, he wrote in such a way that even learned men praised him for his great knowledge and skill.  The boy who was till then referred to as “Ettayapuram Subbiah” was proudly referred as “Bharathi” thenceforth  by nationalists and by millions of Tamil lovers all over the globe.  

In June 1897, at a very young age of 15 (customary those days) his  marriage took place, and his child-bride was Chellammal.  Bharathi left for Benaras (Kasi). He lived there the next two years with his aunt Kuppammal and her husband Krishna Sivan.  He learnt with flair and became expert in Sanskrit, Hindi and English, passing  with credit the Entrance Examination of the Allahabad University. The Benares  stay brought about a tremendous change in Bharathi’s personality.  His personality and looks too changed – he started sporting a twirled  moustache;  a  turban and acquired a bold swing in his walk.   Interestingly, this is what he claimed himself to be (at a much later stage !)

நமக்குத் தொழில்கவிதை,  நாட்டிற்கு உழைத்தல்*

இமைப் பொழுதுஞ் சோராதிருத்தல்- உமைக்கினிய

மைந்தன் கணநாதன் நங்குடியை வாழ்விப்பான்;

சிந்தையே! இன்மூன்றும் செய்.

He prayed Lord Siva (Umainathan) to bless the community stating that his avocation was ‘writing poetry, working for mother land and persevering without battling eye-lid for the cause’ – appeals blessing for these three !  

Earlier he was associated with Sudesa Mithiran run by G Subramanya Iyer which had its office in Armenian Street and Subbaiah lived in Linghi Chetty Street, later he moved to Triplicane, lived in Thoppu Street and .. .. in TP Kovil Street, opp to Sri Azhagiya Singar sannathi.     


Bharathi   published his fiery patriotic poems and blunt anti-colonial articles. His association with V. O. C. became more intimate, the latter floated his Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company in 1906. Bharathi helped him in getting contributions for shares in the company and donations. The great man hailed as Kappalottiya thamizhan fought  Imperial British traders challenging them at sea.  Irked by this, VOC  was subsequently foisted with  serious charges of sedition and conspiracy, which got him two life terms of rigorous imprisonment whence he was physically assaulted and humiliated.  Barathiyar too underwent harassment and was severely injured in prison, which infact led to his death.  Mandayam Thirumalachar and Srinivasachar, employed Barathi as Editor and supported him throughout at Thiruvallikkeni and later moving their press to Pondicherry too.  

By his songs and concerted actions, he reached to the masses making them aware of the need for freedom struggle and could make a great movement in Southern part of the Nation.  He was a fiery leader with progressive leader and great vision, clearly a man who lived much beyond his age and foresaw things clearly.  Bharathi supported Tilak and Aurobindo together with V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and Kanchi Varathaachariyar. Tilak openly supported armed resistance against the British. In 1908, he gave evidence in the case which had been instituted by the British against V.O. Chidambaram Pillai. In the same year, the proprietor of the journal India was arrested in Madras. Faced with the prospect of arrest, Bharathi escaped to Pondicherry which was under French rule. From there he edited and published the weekly journal India, Vijaya, a Tamil daily, Bala Bharatha, an English monthly, and Suryothayam, a local weekly of Pondicherry. The British tried to suppress Bharathi's output by stopping remittances and letters to the papers. Both India and Vijaya were banned in British India in 1909.   

His poetry stands out for many facets of his love for his motherland. He berates his countrymen for many social evils. He chastises them for a fearful and pusillanimous attitude towards the rulers. He gave a clarion call for national unity, removal of casteism and the removal of oppression of women. He calls for the British to leave the motherland in forceful ways at one point saying "Even if Indians are divided, they are children of One Mother, where is the need for foreigners to interfere?".  

The land of Pondicherry bears connection to this great revolutionary.  Apart from running journals and magazines from here, he sung about the famous deity of Pondy ~ “Manakula Vinayagar” in his Vinayagar Nanmani Maalai [விநாயகர் நான்மணி மாலை] – by some accounts this was published out of handwritten manuscripts in 1929 posthomously.  

பக்தியுடையார் காரியத்திற் பதறார், மிகுந்த பொறுமையுடன்

வித்து முளைக்குந் தன்மைபோல் மெல்லச்செய்து பயனடைவார்,

சக்தி தொழிலே அனைத்துமெனிற் சார்ந்த நமக்குச் சஞ்சலமேன்?

வித்தைக்கிறைவா, கணநாதா, மேன்மைத் தொழிலிற் பணியெனையே.  

History written by British has it that the elephant of Sri Parthasarathi temple trampled him to death ~ though an incident of elephant brushing Mahakavi Subramanya Barathiyar did occur somewhere in June, he lived for more than 6 months after that reported incident.  After that reported incident (probably somewhere in Dec 20), he continued his activities at Swadesamitran, spoke at public meetings and made some visits too including travel to Erode  – and died in Sept  most probably due  to failing health, derived from the boot blows and harsh treatment meted out in prison by British authorities – which is comfortably hidden in history.     

வெள்ளையர் தம் அடக்குமுறை, எப்போதும் ஓட்டம், பசி, பிணி போன்றவற்றால் வாடிய மஹாகவிஞனை - "கோவில் யானை அடித்து கொன்றது" என்ற கட்டுக்கதையை பரப்பியுள்ளனர்.  யானையால் பாரதி தள்ளுண்ட நிகழ்வு பல மாதங்கள் முன்பு நிகழ்ந்ததாம்; அப்போது அவரை குவளை கண்ணன் காப்பாற்றியுள்ளார்.   அச் சம்பவத்தின் பின்பு அவர் வழக்கம் போல "சுதேச மித்திரன்" பத்திரிகை அலுவலகம் சென்று தனது வேலைகளைச் செய்து வந்துள்ளார். மேலும் சென்னை நகரக் கடற்கரைப் பொதுக்கூட்டங்களில் தொடர்ந்தும் கலந்து கொண்டு வந்துள்ளார். ஜூலை  31ம் திகதி கருங்கற்பாளைய வாசகசாலையின் 5வது வருடக் கொண்டாட்டக் கூட்டத்தில் பாரதியார் பேசிய உரையின் தலைப்பு "மனிதனுக்கு மரணமில்லை."  - அவர் இறந்ததோ செப்ட் 12 அதிகாலை !!!  

1882, டிசம்பர், 11ல் எட்டயபுரத்தில் பிறந்த மகாகவி பாரதி, 1921, செப்டம்பர், 11ல், சென்னையில் இறந்தார் என்பது  பன்னாள்  வரலாறு. தமிழக, புதுச்சேரி அரசுகள், செப்டம்பர், 11ம் தேதியை, பாரதியின் நினைவு நாளாக அனுசரித்து வந்துள்ளன.  திருவல்லிக்கேணி இல்லத்தில் அவரது நினைவு நிகழ்வுகள் செப்ட் 11ல் நடந்துள்ளன. ஆயினும் - அந்த கொடிய நாள் செப்ட் 12 - (அதிகாலை).   சென்னை மாநகராட்சி பதிவேட்டில், செப்டம்பர், 12ல், இறந்தார் என, பதிவாகி உள்ளது.   இந்த நிகழ்வை உறுதிப்படுத்தும் வகையில், தஞ்சைத் தமிழ்ப் பல்கலைக் கழகத்தின், பாரதி பாடல் ஆய்வுப் பதிப்பு நுாலிலும், 1921, செப்டம்பர் 12, 01:30 மணி என்றே குறிப்பிடப்பட்டுள்ளது.   

மஹாகவி வாழ்ந்த மண்ணில் வாழ்வதை பெருமையாக கருதும் - பாரதியின் பற்றாளன் - திருவல்லிக்கேணி வாழ் ஸ்ரீனிவாசன் சம்பத்குமார்.     


PS : the confusion in date is rather trifle.  It was on the night of 11.9 – rather early hours of 12.9.  In his Death certificate [downloadable from Chennai Corporation website] – his name is misspelt as ‘C Subramani Barthy’ ! – address is 67 TP Koil Street; Date of death given as 12.9.1921 – age again wrongly given as 38 instead of 39. Perhaps all that reflects the care and concern ! Sad !!!


              see the crude correction in the plaque in front of Barathiyar memorial at Thiruvallikkeni  

•        the life story of mahakavi directed by Gnana Rajasekaran, set to the tunes of Illaya Raja, starring Sayaji Shinde & Devayani released in 2000 was a good portrayal of the life of the great poet.  It  won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil for the year 2000 but did not do well in Box office. Here is a link to a great song from the movie.


·         The looks of Mahakavi is immortalized by this portrait – mundasukavi – his head gear and moustache.  This was drawn by Cherankulam Bashyam better known as Arya, who once climbed the flagmast at Fort St George and hoisted the Indian National flag in 1932 - 



Sunday, September 6, 2020

Covid - cities opening up ! ~ how well has your State handled & Kerala model !!

India has overtaken Brazil to now become the country with the second-largest number of people infected with novel coronavirus. More than 41.13 lakh people in India have so far been found to have been infected with the virus. Brazil, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation, has 40.41 lakh infected people. Only the United States, where more than 60 lakh people have so far been infected, is ahead of India now. In the process of overtaking Brazil on Saturday, India also scaled a new high in the number of new cases detected in a single day. More than 90,000 new infections were discovered on that day. No country has recorded more than 75,000 new cases in a single day since the outbreak began.


Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar has indeed been doing a good job, in relentlessly visiting the medical facilities, hospitals, meeting patients and checking the standard of treatment.  

Kerala on Saturday reported 2,655 new COVID-19 cases,  Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said currently, 21,800 people are under treatment in the state forCOVID-19, and 62,559 people have so far been cured of the disease.  The first case of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kerala (which was also the first in all of India) was confirmed in Thrissur on 30 Jan 2020. As of 6 Sept, there have been 87,841 confirmed cases.  The largest single-day spike was reported (3082 cases) on 6 September and Kerala now has the 14th highest number of confirmed cases in India. The state capital, Thiruvananthapuram, is the worst hit

For sometime it was Maharashtra and the small state of Delhi vying for the most affected, then Tamil Nadu was 2nd for long.  Now Maharashtra (as of Sat night) has 883862; Andhra Pradesh 487331; Tamil Nadu 457697; Karnataka 389232 & Uttar Pradesh 259765, being the top 5 states.

Lot of bad news emerging from Kerala which at some point announced that it had contained Covid.  A driver of the 108 ambulance service has been arrested for allegedly raping a young woman, a COVID-19 patient, while on her way to the hospital in Kerala's Pathanamthitta, about 100km north of capital Thiruvananthapuram, the police said. According to officials at the Pandalam police station, the incident happened late Saturday night when the accused was taking two patients - an elderly woman and the 19-year-old rape survivor - to different hospitals in the ambulance, a complaint in the matter stated. The driver, 25-year-old Nowfal, has been removed from the 108 ambulance service.

Recently,  18  junior doctors working as the frontline warriors for containing the Covid-19 pandemic approached the Kerala High Court seeking a directive to the government to disburse salary along with arrears immediately. The petitioners also sought a directive to ensure service conditions such as designation, salary, duty time, off day/ quarantine, leave, and holidays as granted to other doctors in the service of the state government forthwith.  According to the petitioners, though the government has fixed a pay of Rs 42,000 to the junior doctors, not a penny has been disbursed to them till date. They are rendering their duty by spending money from their own pockets.

The illegality and discrimination that are being faced by the petitioners are not merely limited to the payment of remuneration. The consolidated payment fixed by the Government is no way in par with what the similarly footed persons receive under the National Health Mission, National Rurla Health Mission, and State service. Despite the fact that the service conditions of the petitioners would be communicated as decided by the Government, till the date no orders have been issued by the state to lay down the service conditions, the petition said. "This causes grave illegality," it said.

As the state reels under health crisis following increasing Covid cases, junior doctors designated for Covid duty are all set to resign after their remunerations deducted and being treated unfairly with other doctors under health mission. As many as 868 junior doctors belonging to the Covid First-Line Treatment Centers (CFLTCs) and other state-run health care centres have informed the health department that they will be tendering their resignation on Sept  10 if the government does not reconsider their decision to deduct 20 per cent of their salaries along with other tax deductions. Members of the Kerala Junior Doctor’s Association alleged that they are being mistreated when it comes to the pay-scale wherein their peers from the National Health mission are being provided with the full pay without any ‘Salary Challenge’ deductions and tax deductions.

“We are working continuously for ten days without a break at the CFLTCs and work on shift basis tirelessly at the primary health centres like all other doctors. But the government and the health department has backtracked on their assurances and humiliated us”, said Ousam Hussain, a junior doctor at the Cheruvady primary health centre in Kozhikode. However, the government is yet to provide an assurance to the doctors who are on the verge of mass resignation.

The state received international recognition for its COVID-19 response, originally adhering stringently to the World Health Organisation's 'test, trace and isolate' protocols, while leveraging its previous experience in dealing with the Nipah outbreak in 2018 that saw it realise the importance of acting pre-emptively.  However, celebrations have proven to have been premature, with the state currently dealing with over 22,000 active cases as per the latest data from the Union Health Ministry. On September 1, Kerala had recorded 76,525 cases, 31 per cent of which were active – markedly higher than the national average of 21.. Even Maharashtra, which continues to be the hardest hit state in the nation, has a lower active cases to total cases ratio compared to Kerala.

Kerala's efforts to ramp up testing is also likely to have contributed significantly to the spike in the number of fresh cases being recorded. Till the month of July, the state was, reportedly, conducting just 10,000 tests per day, of which somewhere between 500 and 1,000 turned up positive.  It has now increased  testing to approximately 40,000 samples per day.  The neighbouring Tamil Nadu achieved a milestone in Covid-19 testing Thursday with the overall samples examined till date crossing the 50-lakh mark.  Tamil Nadu has been among the states conducting a high number of tests daily.  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


PM-Kisan scheme scam ! ~ fraud accounts and beneficiaries !!

 Nadodi Mannan – released in 1958 was a film directed by MG Ramachandran – besides MGR in dual roles, there was P Bhanumathi, MN Rajam, Sarojadevi, PS Veerappa, MN Nambiar and others.   Like many MGR films this too spoke about socio economic upliftment of farmers and this song  sung by Bhanumathi and TM Soundararajan was quite catchy !  

சும்மா கெடந்த நெலத்தக் கொத்தி; சோம்பலில்லாமே ஏர் நடத்தி

கம்மாக் கரைய ஒசத்திக் கட்டி; கரும்புக் கொல்லையில் வாய்க்கால் வெட்டி  

சம்பாப் பயிரைப் பறிச்சு நட்டு; தகந்த முறையில் தண்ணீர் விட்டு.. .. ..

காடு வெளைஞ்சென்ன மச்சான் நமக்கு; கையுங் காலுந்தானே மிச்சம்


Anniyan [literally Stranger] had a great theme – conceptually it was the guilty being punished… through the character of an innocent and honest lawyer.  One powerful dialogue penned by the Great Sujatha became an instant hit – but remembered more of a comedy… it was - “Anju paisa thiruduna thappaa? (Is stealing of five paise is wrong)” ~ it is not that 5 paise but the act of stealing and the impact is not that of that single act – but that of attitude – when lakhs of people all steal 5 paise – the effect is manifold and corruption is the biggest disease that afflicts the Nation.  So does ‘triviality’ matter indeed ??   

PM Kisan is a Central Sector scheme with 100% funding from Government of India.  It became operational in Dec 2018.  Under the scheme an income support of 6,000/- per year in three equal installments is being  provided to small and marginal farmer families having combined land holding/ownership of upto 2 hectares. Definition of family for the scheme is husband, wife and minor children.  Under the scheme, State Government and UT administration will identify the farmer families which are eligible for support as per scheme guidelines. The fund gets  directly transferred to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.  It is not even 2 years fully operational – and there are news of a major scam in Tamil Nadu !

Under the Prime Minister Kisan Samman Nidhi Scheme, the present  Modi Government has sent  6000 rupees to the bank account of 8 crore 95 lakh farmers till 3 September 2020.  These are farmers whose records have been registered with the authorities.  Central government has implemented this scheme to support farmers in distress.    SAD that even during difficult Covid 19 times, with Govt focused on fighting the dreaded Virus,   a big network of fraudsters devised plans and ate away PM-KISAN funds for which farmers were desperately waiting.

Indian Express had this report in detail  :  The lush fields and scenic hills around Varappalayam camouflage the distress of farmers living in the village very well. For the impoverished workers of the perennially ailing sector, the Covid pandemic and associated lockdowns were a brutal body blow. K Ranganathan, one such farmer from Varappalayam near Coimbatore, pinned his hopes on the Central government’s financial assistance programme, to tide through the tough times. The officials executing the programme, however, seemed to have different ideas.

“I had heard of the PM-Kisan scheme, and wanted to avail the benefits doled out for the sake of farmers by the Central government,” says Ranganathan. “However, when I visited a nationalised bank’s branch, they kept persuading me to take a crop loan if I wanted to get a Kisan card. The interest rate at the bank is a whopping 8 per cent. Why would I do that? I would get the same loan at a much cheaper rate of interest from a cooperative society.” Then, why not get a Kisan card from a cooperative society? “I tried, but the society wanted me to buy fertilizers from them in return for the Kisan card.  

The trouble with that deal is that the society does not give us the fertilizer we want. They try to push the product they prefer.” Ranganathan has been trying to get a Kisan card since June, but his attempts have gone in vain. “If I had the card, I would get the Rs 6,000 financial incentive being offered by the government to farmers to help us tide through the Covid-related distress.” Not just that. The Kisan card would also help Ranganathan take small bank loans without giving any collateral, at an interest rate of mere 2 per cent. Considering the benefits, Ranganathan has not given up trying. S Nachimutu, a farmer from Madukkarai, has had similar experience while applying for a Kisan card. The only difference is that Nachimutu has been trying for the last six months. For both these farmers, Kisan card is the panacea for which they have been looking. It is right there in front of them, but out of reach.  

Now, cut to Virudhachalam, in the northern part of Tamil Nadu. Daily wage labourer Bhavani* has been unemployed since the lockdown began. In April, when her family was struggling without her meagre income that, until then, kept them afloat, a neighbour told Bhavani about a new financial assistance programme of the government. All that Bhavani had to do was fill out a few forms, submit her Aadhaar details and ID proof, and she would get money from the government.  Thrilled, Bhavani did as she was told. When asked, the neighbour told Bhavani that she had found out about the scheme through a relative who works with the Agriculture Department in Cuddalore. “A fortnight after I completed the formalities, I received Rs 2,000 in my bank account, of which my neighbour demanded Rs 1,000 as commission.” Only then did Bhavani realise that she was an illegal beneficiary of the PM-Kisan scheme.

There is no farmer or farm worker in Bhavani’s family, yet she got the money meant as assistance for farmers. It appears Bhavani’s neighbour, or the relative who works in the Agriculture Department, used Bhavani’s credentials to open a fake beneficiary account. They gave half the money to Bhavani to make her a party in the crime. “I have never met this relative of my neighbour ever, not even during all these transactions.” In August too, Bhavani got Rs 2,000, of which the neighbour took Rs 1,000. Bhavani is at the tail end of a massive scam that has recently come to light in Tamil Nadu.  

It is suspected that there is a big network behind this scam, comprising corrupt bank and government officials apart from people with powerful links. The network corrupted a novel scheme, conceived to alleviate the distress of farmers, to swindle money meant for the poor. As a result, farmers like Ranganathan are running pillar to post to secure the benefits for which they are eligible, while those like Bhavani have been made unwilling parties to a financial fraud.  

So, how deep is this corruption? In Cuddalore alone, officials have unearthed a whopping 38,000 fake Kisan accounts so far. The process is continuing as more suspicious accounts are being audited. Till April, there were only 1.79 lakh beneficiaries of the scheme in Cuddalore, explain sources. After that there was a spurt -- 80,752 fresh beneficiaries got added; most of them were between July 15 and 31. A joint committee formed by the government -- comprising agriculture, horticulture, and revenue department officials -- expanded the probe beyond Cuddalore to 12 other districts. The also suspended the scheme to avoid further damage.  It has come to light that the scam is centred around Villupuram, Kallakurichi, and Cuddalore. In the Karmangudi revenue village of Cuddalore, for instance, only 172 out of the 474 new beneficiaries are genuine farmers, point out members of farmers associations, who are now up in arms against the fraudsters.

The fake accounts, according to sources, were in the names of school-going children, housewives, and others who had never done farming.  The scamsters  hoodwinked vulnerable citizens, used their documents and identification proofs, and opened fake accounts.  Last Saturday, one such common service centre in Kallakurichi, opposite the Shankarapuram Revenue Divisional Office, was sealed as part of the probe. The centre was allegedly forging documents of ineligible persons for the scheme after taking bribe from them. The issue was brought to light by farmers, with help from the Left parties. The District Collector then ordered a freeze on all beneficiary accounts linked to the centre until further instructions. In some other cases, it has also come to light that these contractual staff charged Rs 500 from applicants as “computer fees” and misused their Aadhaar details to open fake accounts.

More than half the beneficiaries in Kallakurichi are fake, say officials. “A total of 1,40,000 Kisan cards were sanctioned to beneficiaries of which, 75,000 were found to be ineligible,” says joint director of agriculture Velayudham. “Investigation has revealed that two government officers leaked the user ID and password of the database to contractual employees of computer centres, including the one that was sealed. Using the login details, fake applications were uploaded on to the database.” So far, three Assistant Directors based in Villupuram and Kallakurichi have been suspended by the agricultural department, suspecting they had links with the scam. Officials in Chennai say the investigation is almost over, and that the “kingpins” behind the scam would be nabbed in the next few days. “Every penny swindled illegally will be retrieved. After all, we have all their bank account numbers. There will be no loss of money for the government,” a senior official said. A few staff members working at computer centres there have been fired. 

Another report of the Express adds that the authorities have recovered Rs. 2.25 crore from ineligible accounts of farmers who were enrolled under PM Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) scheme in Tiruvannamalai district. The Crime Branch-CID (CB-CID) has nabbed a woman heading a self-help group (SHG) in connection with the irregularities. Top authorities of Agriculture and Revenue departments initiated the inquiry following the irregularities in enrollment and disbursal of cash under the PM-KISAN came to light recently. They found that 32,000 accounts belonged to farmers who are ineligible to get the financial succour from the Centre. Consequently, the process to retrieve the cash from their accounts was initiated. “Rs. 2.25 crore cash has been recovered from ineligible accounts,” Tiruvannamalai district collector KS Kandasamy said on Saturday.

He added, “All the cash transfer made into the account since 1 April have been subjected to scrutiny to find how much cash was received by the ineligible farmers.” The accounts of the suspected farmers have also been held up by the bank authorities so that they can’t withdraw cash, but allowed to deposit. The field-level officers of Agriculture and Revenue departments have been visiting those farmers who run out balance in their account to persuade them to return the cash received under PM-KISAN.  In Vellore, Tirupathur and Ranipet districts, it was found that about 10,000 ineligible accounts were opened to avail of the dole, according to a senior officer.

Meanwhile, the sleuths of CB-CID, which has been probing the financial irregularities, has arrested a woman heading an SHG in connection with the scam. Thirty-five-year-old Jeeva, a resident of Perungalathur, Thandarampattu Taluk, in Tiruvannamalai, was held by a team of CB-CID led by Inspector Dhanalakhsmi on Friday, sources said.  She was produced before a local court and subsequently, remanded to judicial custody. Jeeva, who headed an SHG, was alleged to have faciliated enrollment of ineligible farmers in the PM-KISAN scheme, CB-CID sources said.  Irregularities in PM-KISAN have been committed in 13 districts, including Kallakurichy, Cuddalore and Villupuram, of Northern Tamil Nadu and several crores of money was swindled. Local authorities of Agriculture department and data entry operators have allegedly colluded with farmers to enrol ineligible hands to avail of the financial benefits.

It is a sad state of affairs – but one would not find it strange that media would not discuss this, politicians won’t raise voices and even common man would act as if nothing happened.  Has corruption become so normal ! ~ and  why the direct beneficiaries, the farmers, are not agitating ?  Ideally the farmers and their many Associations should have been on the streets protesting !   for it was the money meant for them that had been swindled ! – Corruption has really affected the society !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar



Tributes to a rare jewel of Triplicane - Sriraj, the master !


Years back in Mar 2005, I interviewed him and did an article for SYMA Bliss ~ a decade or so later,  went to his house thinking that a photo-feature on my blog would be good…….. he politely refused and after a lengthy discussion, he agreed upon a condition (can you imagine what it was ?  … read the last para)  .. .. today Triplicane pays homage to him.  Sad SRIRAJ is NO MORE!!

It is place with great heritage and rich legacy … the holy Thiruvallikkeni (Triplicane as crudely rolled and twisted out of shape by the English tongue) -  a place where religion, nationalistic fervour, patriotism, sports, education and the individual dignity have interspersed for the benefit of the State and the larger interests of the Nation.  We have Presidency College, century old institutions like The Hindu High School, NKT Group of Educational institutions and more.   … 

From 2008, SYMA is running a full time Educational support centre – SYMA Growth aimed at providing quality educational support to poor students of X Std and + 2.  The man of the post has been associated with SYMA since its formative years and was bent on eradicating illiteracy.  He lived  simple and many of us would have seen him in the four streets around the temple, little realizing his greatness and his services.  He may look like a very simple next door neighbour,  I found him to be waxing  eloquence and  a true karmayogi.  

Education is the most important thing in life – it will give Worldly pleasures  and give pleasure to the world too; it will not diminish by giving; it will spread the fame of those possessing it; cannot be destroyed… there is no better medicine  than Education that can cure all ills.     Ramanujapuram Ananthanpillai Sriraj, popular as “Sriraj” ... was born in  1947 - the year in which our Independence dawned,  this humble person was born at a small obscure hamlet near the gold mines of kolar in Karnataka.  

Tamilnadu was to reap the benefits much later.  This man had his schooling in the famous Hindu High school of Triplicane; did his graduation (Bsc Physics) and qualified himself with AMIE – Mech. As all young aspirants would do,  joined Bhilai Steel Plant – a veritable industrial establishment in those days; subsequently turned towards business – their own establishment dealing with printing machineries.  The story would  have been a simple one on predictable lines – rise to wealth. But he chose to live his life differently !   

He took up on illiteracy.  Chennai though considered the wisdom capital of the Bharat has clusters of slums inhabited by people with little access to education.  The geography of Triplicane is too well known – all of us know the existence of slums and the standard of living of those inside; many may be blissfully ignorant of their trials and tribulations.  Not for Sriraj.  The urge to serve the weaker lings was always burning within.  Here was a man motivated by Dr Hedgewar’s policy of educating and motivating the society.   

He made a humble beginning by teaching  primary school children of  Hanumanthapuram in the evenings., for moulding should start when very young.  As the numbers swelled, he had to look out for a bigger place.  He did not look outside for solution but shifted the tuition centre to his own house.  For more than 15 years this noble person continued rendering service in style.  At peak, he had more than 100 students with nearly 18 volunteers teaching the school curriculam.  He was keen that along with education was imparted ethics, good conduct and more than anything else the cultural heritage of this wondrous motherland.  He organized school books and guides also for the group which by choice  was  from the economically poor slum children.  Many of his wards graduated (literally yes – completed B Com & et al) with a couple even completing post graduation. At a particular stage, he even made them Computer-literates too,  by having 4 systems properly manned, teaching them the soft-skills.  

Sriraj during the tete-a-tete said the initial mindblock for those children was learning English but  was quick to add that for any one with keen sense of hearing, memory, retention and more importantly the interest and attitude, learning will seldom be a far cry. He rightly pointed  out that the present day English learning is after all something which dawned on this country not more than 160 years  ago or a little more.  His mantra for success was methodology, organized way of doing things,  regularity in doing them, sincerity coupled with hardwork.  He practised his preaching  to overcome the social divide teach other and help in up-liftment.  If only we had more like this unassuming person, perhaps one day illiteracy can indeed be eradicated.  

In my school days (mid 1970s) I have observed cinema posters appearing on Wednesday night & on Thursdays ~ as new films would hit the screen on Friday (sentiment !) Slowly the culture permeated so deep that posters hailing 100th  day – degenerated to 25 days and even successful opening.  There were some hailing the audio release and pooja of proposed films even. Posters used to be the most preferred form of advertisement for political parties too – in some places, even death would be communicated through posters. Now a days, one gets to see lot of flex-boards .. .. one such poster put up near Krishnampet hailing his services put up in 2018 ~

Sriraj lived a saintly life, taking care of his old mother in the best manner. Understand that his mother passed away a few months back and yesterday Sriraj breathed his last peacefully leaving Triplicane and this World. 

On that day, as I requested for a photo of him to be taken, before permitting me, he went to his mother said that a known person from SYMA has come and asked her what she would feel about allowing a photo to be taken – was so intent on avoiding any public glare…. His house in Car Street (which housed Anand Vidyashram) is too well known.  

Very Sad that a karmayogi has passed away ! ~ SYMA and Triplicanites bow his indomitable spirit.  Om Shanthi to his athma.


With grief


Secretary SYMA


Saturday, September 5, 2020

remembering Kappal Ottiya Thamizhan VO Chidambaram Pillai

The poignant history of a man who was so passionate in founding a new enterprise – but passed away broken –  was born this day, 148 years ago. 

Vandanam Olaganathan Chidambaram Pillai  (VOC)  was born on 5th Sept 1872.  His father was the eminent lawyer Ulaganathan Pillai in Ottapidaram, Tuticorin Dist.  Like his father, he also became an advocate and often pleaded for the poor.  He was attracted by the Swadeshi movement by the Bal Lal Pal,  a time when Gandhi was not at the National scene.  The fight was against the Imperial policies of British which were threatening the very existence of trade, commerce and the communities that were dependent on them.  In Madras Presidency this was championed by the likes of Subramanya Siva, Subrahmanya Bharathi, Aurobindo Ghosh.  VOC also presided the Salem Congress Session.

He was a great patriot and fought the British tooth and nail ~ while some freedom fighters were arrested and spent time in Jail writing books and letters – the hardcore unfortunate were subjected to harsh punishments, were cruelly treated, lost their health, mental balance eventually leading to untimely deaths.  This man’s imprisonment was a sequel to the  speech at Thai Poosa Mantapam in the bed of river Thamirabarani at Tirunelveli [on the night of 9th March 1907];  was convicted under sections 124A & 153A of Indian Penal Code by the Bench consisting of CA White & Miller.   In that famous speech, he had thundered “"As soon as the English people set foot in India, poverty also made its appearance in the country. So long as the foreign Government exists we shall not prosper. So long as we continue to be the servants and slaves of foreigners we shall have to endure hardships.”

Not many of us now know that Tuticorin was known as Thirumandiranagar, meaning a city of holy chants.  Those days, it reverberated with the mantra of ‘Vande Mataram’ .. ..  Indian history has not properly recorded those pains and sufferings of innumerable patriots who fought the British.  Vascoda gama’s ship San Gabrial touched the shores in 1498 – showing the way for Western mariners and that pain continued till 1947 when Indian National flag was unfurled at the ramparts of Red Fort ~ a period of 450 years that gruelled India and its citizens.

Sea-faring is not new – thousands of years ago, Sangam literature speaks of adventurous voyages, wars and trade from South Indian ports, some of which are extinct now.  Perhaps, commercial shipping was new – towards the end of 19th century, some sprang and to us the most important was   “Swadeshi Steam Ship Company”, that challenged the monopoly of enjoyed by the British India Steam Navigation Company, formed in 1856, especially in passenger transportation between Tuticorin and Colombo.  The British India Steam Navigation Company  had earlier been  formed in 1856 as the ‘Calcutta and Burmah Steam Navigation Company’. The company had been formed out of Mackinnon, Mackenzie & Co, a trading partnership of the Scots William Mackinnon and Robert Mackenzie, to carry mail between Calcutta and Rangoon. Years later this was  entirely absorbed into P&O. As one of the largest shipowners of all time, the company owned more than 500 ships and managed 150 more for other owners. At its height in 1922, BI had more than 160 ships in the fleet, many built on Clydeside, Scotland.

                   The man who dared to create this enterprise  said, “This Company is not merely commercial in its motive. These ships will help the British leave the country with their bags and baggages.” Subrahmanya Siva another stormy petrel of the South and a right-hand man of Chidambaram who was sitting next to him interrupted and said: “They cannot take the bags and baggages as the contents in them belong to India” !

His exemplary fighting qualities made him establish the “Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company” during Nov 1906 by purchasing two steamships ‘S.S.Gaelia’ and ‘S.S.Lawoe’. On 16 October 1906 a new Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company was registered under the Indian Companies Act of 1882. The details found regarding the Company were: The Capital was to be ten lakh rupees raised by the issue of 40,000 shares at Rs. 25 each. Individuals belonging to Asian Continent were eligible to become shareholders—Pandi Thurai Thevar the Zamindar of Palavanatham and the President of Madurai Tamil Sangam was its President and Chidambaram Pillai became an Assistant Secretary of the new company. The company had 15 Directors.   The wily British reportedly slashed the fare per trip to Re.1 (16 annas) per head.  Later the  British company went further by offering a free trip to the passengers plus a free umbrella, which had ‘S.S.Gaelia’ and ‘S.S.Lawoe’ running nearly empty.  The restrictive trade practices coupled by the political actions taken against  the pioneer and other freedom fighters pushed the company towards bankruptcy is the sad history.  

Sea is rough and the life of VOC was tormented at land too.. ..  In Tuticorin the English were running a cotton mill by name “The Tuticorin Coral Cotton Mills”. The Management was fleecing the labourers, and was enjoying enormous profits.  Those who advocate human rights and call British kind, need to know that the Factory Act of 1911 for cotton mill workers prescribed 12 hour work schedule through the week.  In the Coral Mills, even small mistakes by the labourer was magnified by giving cane punishment. Racial arrogance was evident in their behaviour and attitude towards the labourers. Chidambaram Pillai and Siva arranged for meetings of the workers of the Mill and addressed them to bring an awareness. In that task, Padmanabha Ayyangar another social worker and an admirer of Chidambaram also took part. At all the meetings held at Tuticorin during the months of February and March of 1908, all the three were present invariably.  This irked the Britishers, particularly the Collector of Tirunelveli Mr. Winch and the joint Magistrate of Tuticorin, Mr. Ashe.


After that speech in Tirunelveli in  1908, VOC was arrested on charges of sedition. Mahakavi Bharathiyar and Subramanya Siva appeared in the Court in the case and VOC was sentenced to double life imprisonment. He was treated badly as a convict and subjected to inhuman torture.  Chidambaram Pillai was sentenced to 40 years of exile and transportation for life on two counts. Twenty years for seditious speech and 20 years for abetting Siva for his fiery lectures—the sentences to run one after another. Siva was transported for 10 years for seditious speech. 

He was sent to the Central Jail at Coimbatore on 9 July 1908. Without any concern for his social status, professional equipment or hereditary weightage, Chidambaram was interned along with diehard and cut-throat criminals. But little did he deflect from his steadfast principles, forebearance and fortitude which earned for him the regard and respect from fellow-prisoners tending to become affection and love. He was asked to spin jute-yarn by hand-rotating machine by which act his palms got blisters with burning sensation and occasionally blood oozed out of the palms.  He was. made to drag the country-oil-expeller (chekku) round and round in the open air to crush the seeds for oil instead of bullocks or any other draught animal.

As if the afflictions—external—are not sufficient, Chidambaram had the share of mental agonies too. The news that the ships belonging to the Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company were sold to the very same British Company against which he fought valiantly and relentlessly, pained him terribly.  When Bharati heard about it, he expressed his disapproval and anger when he met Chidambaram in person later at Pondicherry thus: “Honour is great and important. For a few chips the ships were sold to the very enemies by the cut-throats. They could have smashed the ships into smithereens and thrown them into the sea. Will India sink if a few chips were lost?” Not stopping with the sale of the ships to the enemies, the members of the management of the Swadeshi Company demanded compensation from Chidambaram. They contended that due to the political interference of Chidambaram alone the Company had to lose business and hence had to be closed.

The man who underwent all pains for the Nation VOC was  later released in Dec 1912 convicted in  judgement known as ‘King Emperor versus Subramania Siva and V.O. Chidambaram Pillai’  is a piece of  history. Here are some snippets – mostly picked from a heart-rending book titled ‘VO Chidambaram Pillai’ written by RN Sampath & Pe Su Mani, with foreword of Ma Po Si.

·       Kappalottiya Thamizhan, a 1961 film – the story of VOC based on bio written by Ma. Po. Si.(M.P.Sivagnanam); directed by B. R. Panthulu, featured Sivaji Ganesan and Gemini Ganesan in the lead roles. The film reportedly failed at box office.

·       VOC’s birth place Ottapidaram village is proximate to Ettayapuram of Barathiyar and Panchalam kurichi of Veerapandia kattabomman.

·       Ulaganatham Pillai, father of  Kappal Ottiya thamizhan Chidambaram, was related to Lieutenant Thanapathi Pillai who served Katta Bomman as minister.

·       In  1906, VOC met Swami Ramakrishnananda—the Chief of Ramakrishna Mission at Madras.  This meeting changed the life of pious Saivaite

·       Chidambaram was a great orator, great writer in Tamil, having published some books.  His fiery article ‘Swadesabhimanam’ appeared in Vivekabhanu Feb 1906 issue of  a monthly journal from Madurai.

·       This literary magazine ws started in 1902 and was at one point of time ran by Pulavar MR Kandaswami Kavirayar, zealous Nationalist.  VOC was contributing a donation of Rs.12/-  every month !

·       In May 1907, Bipin Chandra Pal visited Madras and gave six lectures on the Triplicane Beach every day evening from 3 to 8. These lectures brought out a perceptible change in the attitude of the people. Bharathiyar wrote in his India on 11 May 1907, that the visit and speeches of Pal had cast a miraculous effect on the otherwise slumbering people of Madras. After the visit in every street and in every place the talk was only about Nationalism and the first utterance was Vande Mataram.

·       On the day of release of Bipin Chandra Pal on 9.3.1908, VOC & Subramanya Siva organised celebrations at Tuticorin. 

·       The Madras Jana Sangh was founded in Triplicane at a meeting held in Gangai Kondan  Mantap on 11 Jan 1908. [our Ganganna mantap at Triplicane market]

·       Sadly, (though British had made elaborate arrangements) at the time of his release on 24.12.1912, Swami Vallinayagam, V.O.C.’s wife, sons, brother-in-law and friend Ganapathi  only were present at the gate.  Siva who himself had been released a month earlier was   there as a sole representative of public persons who toiled with Chidambaram for the freedom, fully afflicted with leprosy. What a travesty!

·       Chidambaram Pillai upon his release from Cannanore jail,  neither went to his native village Ottappidaram nor to his erstwhile field of political activity, Tuticofin, but went to Madras and set up his family.

·       With his Sannad to practice being confiscated he could not restart his legal profession. Wherewithal to maintain a family became a big question mark before him. He tried at opening a grocery and general store but failed in that. He ventured into kerosene mandy but lost money.   Mandayam Srinivasachari of Thiruvallikkeni, who had employed Mahakavi Barathiyar  alone was the financial prop for all indigent patriots and he helped Chidambaram considerably.

·       While Subrahmanya Bharati and Subrahmanya Siva translated the works of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, Chidambaram took the works of James Allen for his handiwork.

·       He appealed against the revocation of his advocate license and years later was restored by the orders of Judge EH Wallace – reportedly he named his son,, Valleswaran ! in gratitude. However, he struggled in his profession due to lack of support from the public and from the Congress party with whom he became quite disillusioned.

·       He also joined hands with Prof. Vaiyapuri Pillai and published Tholkappiyam with the notes of Ilampooranar in 1922. He also wrote commentary for the Arathupal part of Thirukkural.

·       One of his sons, Arumugam Pillai contested in Ottapidaram Assembly elections in1967 but lost badly.

On 18 November 1936 at 11.30 in the night the great patriot and the valiant fighter of freedom joined his political mentors in their heavenly abode.

With profound sadness – S. Sampathkumar

5th Sept 2020