The Chennai District Collector has given her go-ahead to acquire Veda Nilayam, the residence of former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa and convert it into a memorial.
The district administration has made public the final report on the issue after holding public consultation with the residents of Chennai’s Poes Garden in January this year. “Since former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Selvi J Jayalalithaa was a phenomenal woman leader in a male-dominated society and a role model for women across the country, the decision taken by the state government to convert her residence into a government memorial is the most appropriate one,” reads the report.
The Chennai Collector told TNM, "The decision is based on the public consultation process. Once the land acquisition process is complete, work on the memorial will begin.
Result of public consultation
The district administration had held public consultation in January with the current residents of Poes Garden where Veda Nilayam is situated, to find out the concerns of the residents on the government’s decision.
“47 persons participated in this discussion. Their submissions – oral and written – were recorded. All of them were given the opportunity to express their views in total freedom,” the report states.
Traffic snarls, road blocks, sanitation and safety were cited as the major concerns by the Poes Garden residents during this public consultation.
The district administration has addressed these concerns in their recent report. Regulating the number of visitors who come to Veda Nilayam and amping up security by deploying more police personnel have been offered as possible solutions for the reservations expressed by the residents.
While a few residents expressed concerns about the land allegedly encroached by the Stella Maris College, the district administration responded by stating that the encroached land has been transferred to the college itself and that it is not illegal occupation anymore. It also added that since Stella Maris College is an institution established under Article 30 (Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions) of the Indian Constitution, the state government cannot interfere with those rights.
When asked about the objections from residents of Poes Garden against the project, the Collector says, "There have been no objection to the project, to my knowledge."
Possibility of shifting to alternate location
One other suggestion that had reportedly come up during the public consultation was to set up the memorial in an alternate location. This has been dismissed by the district administration, which said that the move will hurt the sentiments of the people.
“Since Jayalalithaa lived in Veda Nilayam for over 30 years till her final days, this would be the appropriate place for memorial. Shifting the memorial elsewhere would hurt the sentiments of people” the report states.
The District Collector’s report has also concluded that the decision taken to acquire Veda Nilayam in order to be converted into a memorial has been taken on fair grounds and for the welfare of the public.
Case pending in court
However, this green signal does not accelerate the process of setting up of the memorial since a case filed by Jayalalithaa’s niece and nephew – Deepa and Deepak – seeking the court to announce them as the former Chief Minister’s legal heirs is still pending in the court. This as there is no record of a will left behind by Jayalalithaa.
In July, Justice N Kirubakaran came down heavily on the state government for wanting to establish a memorial using public funds.
“When the state government is struggling for funds, why do you want to spend crores of rupees on a memorial? You cannot spend public money like this. We cannot allow this. You better reconsider your decision. Remember your leader and do some good work. That is sufficient,” he told the advocate for the state government.
The District Collector’s report also mentions the case briefly by stating that the amount payable to acquire the property – a little over Rs 32 crores – will be deposited in the court since the case is pending before it.