TN dichotomy: Stalin pitches for trillion-dollar economy, but caste pulls state down
<br>There is no doubt that the government fared better than expected with an economy mired in the severe backlash of shutdowns and lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The loss of a magnetic personality and a shrewd administrator, Stalin's father and former Chief Minister Kalaignar Karunanidhi was a factor that pulled Stalin and his government back.
Undeterred, the Chief Minister moved ahead overcoming difficulties but the government and Stalin are embarrassed at the injustice being meted out to the Dalit community in the state.
While there were back to back killings in Tirunelveli district in July and August 2021, tough measures were taken by the police with the DGP, C. Sylendrakumar, a South Tamilian who knows the ins and outs of the caste politics of the state, camping at Madurai and tackling the criminals with an iron hand.
Recently a Class 6 student at Tindivanam was subjected to a caste slur by upper caste students. The 11-year-old Dalit boy on a holiday was going to his relatives' place when three upper caste boys from the Kattuchiviri government school, the same school where the 11-year-old is studying, hurled abuses at him and later pushed him into a bush fire.
He suffered serious burn injuries but escaped with his life as he jumped into a nearby water tank. On seeing the boy coming back with injuries, his parents asked him the reason.
The terrified boy told his family that he had accidentally fallen into a bush fire and suffered burn injuries and the parents took him to a nearby government hospital. When the doctors coaxed him, he narrated the ordeal he was going through in the school. He told the doctors that three upper caste senior boys of his school had confronted him on the road and abused him for his Dalit lineage and then pushed him into a bush fire.
His father promptly complained to the Tindivanam police who registered a case under Section 324 and also under the SC/ST atrocities prevention Act. The boys were arrested and put in a rehabilitation centre at Killi.
In another incident that took place at the Government Elementary School, Semmedu in Coimbatore, the headmistress and a teacher of the school were booked after an 8-year-old Dalit student who defecated in his school uniform was allegedly forced to clean the toilet of the school.
The boy who was in Class III was then forced to clean the stain on his clothes and was made to stand outside to sun-dry his clothes. The headmistress and the teacher also reportedly insulted the boy's mother who had come to the school after coming to know of the incident.
The mother complained to the Alandurai police in Coimbatore, that she was verbally assaulted by the class teacher, Thangamari, and headmistress, K. Jayanthi. She lodged a complaint with the police and both Jayanthi and Thangamari were booked under the Juvenile Justice Act and the SC/ST atrocities Act.
Sreeraghavan. K, a social activist and researcher on Dalit studies from Kanniyakumari, told IANS that "The trillion-dollar economy idea is good but until social issues like Dalit atrocities are not addressed, forget a trillion dollar economy, the state will stumble midway through in normal development."
"The government should use an iron hand against Dalit atrocities. Social parameters and social indices are the benchmarks of any development and unfortunately, Tamil Nadu is lagging behind on the issue of treatment of Dalits on many counts."
He added that the Chief Minister must put an end to this or the state will not be taken seriously by the investors and all the moves to woo investments and push the state into a trillion dollar economy by 2030 will not materialise.
In another example of atrocities on Dalits, temple authorities at Dindigul in Tamil Nadu did not allow Dalit families to enter the temple after it was renovated.
The officials of Uchi Kaliamman temple, Kavilpatti said that it was not discrimination against the Dalits but they stopped those who have not paid their contribution for the renovation of the temple. To defuse the situation, the local administration has called a peace meeting on May 18 with the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police participating.