Friday October 5 2007 07:54 IST
Karunanidhi’s explanation is food for a lot of thought
AFTER being roundly criticised for foisting on Tamil Nadu and Puducherry a situation best described as a bandh, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi has put out an explanation as to how that situation came to be. While we wonder what the Chief Minister gained from making the state undergo the rigours of a shuttered down situation, what he now offers for our consideration is that the Chief Secretary received the copy of the Supreme Court order only around 10.30 pm on September 30; and there was “just a few hours between the time the order copy was received and the ‘bandh’ to begin”.
It is unclear if there is a hint of a suggestion that if the orders had come earlier, things would have turned out otherwise. But since he has given us this background, we would have liked to find out what time the government counsel in New Delhi got a copy of the order. Further how much time would it have taken for the Government counsel to have transmitted the relevant portions of the order? There are such things as telephones and faxes these days. That the court had ruled out a bandh was news far earlier than the time the Chief Secretary apparently seems to have got the order. In fact, we would like to point out that the Kalaignar Television began to run news crawler that the DPA leadership was going to go on a fast, clearly as a measure to trim their sails to the Supreme Court wind, as early as around one thirty in the afternoon.
By a quarter to three the DMK office had begun to fax various newspaper offices the news of the fast. Shortly thereafter it was common knowledge that it could be taken for granted that buses would remain off the roads. It is therefore strange that the Chief Minister should bring up the time the Chief Secretary obtained the orders as being germane to the argument he tries to make.
The Chief Minister further says that the various ministers of the ruling combine, including himself, attended to work at their offices and that “all” government offices throughout the state functioned; some schools and colleges functioned; all trains ran that day and there was no disruption of flights. We will examine each point on merit but the icing on the cake of his arguments is that so far as the bus transport was concerned, “ a significant number of buses were plied and the situation improved as time went by.” The Chief Minister further maintains that “public and the workers did not have enough time to know that the Supreme Court had heard the case on Sunday and had granted a stay against the bandh. Hence, if only those who raise questions had given some time to ponder over this, there would not have been any scope for condemnation (against me).”
It is obviously a moot point as to how quickly the development in the Supreme Court could have been disseminated, especially robust steps that could have been taken to roll back the bandh, considering the various enviable media options that the Chief Minister no doubt and self-evidently has at his disposal, including Kalaignar Television and Murasoli, not to mention options in the English language press. But here, briefly, are the salient highlights of that day, as we saw it and reported it: Public mobility was crippled because most of the government Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses stayed off the roads for most part of the day.
Trains ran, certainly, but not many could make it in public transport. Those who used three wheelers paid more than the fair price for it; 26 domestic flights were cancelled from Chennai alone. Could this be considered a disruption? Oh yes, government offices did function. And how! When our reporters visited the government offices to take a litmus test of reality, including at all ten floors of Namakkal Kavignar Maaligai, only 15 per cent of the staff were present.
The Tamil Nadu Government Officials’ Union President G Suriyamurthi is on record in one of our reports claiming most government employees were unable to get to work because of suspension of public transport. Given this development, how does the government propose to view the mass absence: as unauthorised leave, casual leave? If this is the way government offices nowadays “function” in Tamil Nadu as the Chief Minister so delightfully asserts, it would certainly explain a lot of things.
So far as the part where the Chief Minister claims some schools and colleges functioned, we would like to bring to your attention a remark made by his Education Minister, which we reported that day, when he was asked to give a status report on the functioning of schools on October 1. Thangam Thennarasu declared: “I went to take part in the fast and hence I do not have any details on the functioning of schools.” Without putting too fine a point to it, it is pertinent to note that in government hospitals outpatient inflow fell by about fifty per cent on October 1. Could this have caused any misery and suffering? Imagine, too, amount of business that was lost that day. We continue to wonder how is it our version of reality is consistently at variance with the Chief Minister’s?
THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS