Villupuram candidate Dr D Ravikumar speaks to TNM on his main focus areas, his political opponents, the BJP and more.

Not anti-Brahminism but equality for all is priority now An intv with VCKs RavikumarFacebook/Ravikumar4Villupuram
news Lok Sabha 2019 Saturday, April 13, 2019 - 17:02

Zipping through the East Coast Road, white mounds of salt set up in neat rows glimmer in the sunlight. The signboard reads ‘Marakkanam’, a small coastal town in Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram which happens to be the second largest producer of salt in the state. This is also where the DMK-led alliance’s candidate for Villupuram Dr D Ravikumar, who is VCK’s General Secretary, is campaigning on Friday.  

An accomplished writer and social activist, Ravikumar is not a political newbie. In 2006, he was an MLA from Kattumannarkoil Assembly constituency in Cuddalore district. During his tenure, he helped bring a new e-waste policy in Tamil Nadu and for urging then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi to start a skill development programme in the state. In the 2011 polls, he sought a re-election from Kattumannarkoil but lost. Ravikumar unsuccessfully stood from Vanur Assembly constituency in Villupuram district in 2016.  But the former MLA is confident this time around as he seeks an electoral mandate from the Villupuram Lok Sabha constituency, which he calls home.

Agriculture and education are main focus areas

Speaking to TNM about his plans for Villupuram if he gets elected, Ravikumar says that his major focus areas are three – sugarcane farmers, industries and education. “In the last seven to eight years, sugarcane cultivation has reduced by around 40%. The reason for this decrease is that there is no governmental support for this. If the sugarcane farmers have to switch to drip irrigation, they need subsidy for investment cost which they have not got for the last three to four years,” he says.

Explaining that his aim is also to bring in agro-based industries in the district, Ravikumar adds that his concern is on the status of literacy in Villupuram. “The gap between the rate of male and female literacy is 17%. I want to reduce the gap between the two sexes to at least 5%,” he points out.

Listing his continued efforts to help the fishermen carry on with their livelihood without any worries, Ravikumar adds that he would also place their longstanding demand of inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes list in Parliament once he is elected. He also has plans to address the sea erosion problems by sanctioning infrastructure works using his MPLADS funds.

‘Promoting harmony between communities’

Apart from issues of development, Villupuram is a caste-sensitive district. Frequent clashes between the dominant castes and the Dalits in the region have grabbed headlines in the past. Speaking about the caste equation in the district, Ravikumar says that the aim of his alliance would be to promote harmony between people of all communities.

In February this year, more than 30 houses and several vehicles were set on fire allegedly by members of the dominant caste in a Dalit colony in Villupuram. This after a Dalit man eloped with a caste Hindu girl. In another incident in February, a mother and her 14-year-old daughter were raped by unidentified men. The victim’s brother was killed in the attack which took place in a Dalit settlement in Villupuram district. Though police denied that it was a caste crime, activists emphasised that it was. In 2017, a fight between two individuals – a Dalit farmer and a villager, who belonged to the dominant community – turned into a clash between the villagers in RR Kuppam near Ulundurpet.

“Beyond the caste labels, I have my own identity and recognition in this district. I have raised my voice and helped people out in various human rights issues,” he says, adding that the 21 lakh housing scheme brought in by M Karunanidhi ended up benefitting a lot of Vanniyars in the region.

His main fight is against Vadivel Ravanan of the PMK, which is part of the AIADMK-led alliance. Stating that he was close to PMK founder S Ramadoss and that their friendship goes back years, Ravikumar, however, does not mince words when he speaks of the party. He alleges, “PMK does activities to polarise the society. We have never done that. We have been working for the past three years now to help form a secular government. All the major issues we take up, be it Sri Lankan Tamils issue or Cauvery issue or the one of state rights, none of this is caste-based.”

‘Equality for all, not anti-Brahminism’

Firmly believing that DMK is the closest to the VCK in terms of ideology, Ravikumar says that his party’s principles are inspired from the Dravidian movement itself. “Dravidian movement was crucial in spreading Ambedkar’s ideology in Tamil Nadu,” he says. However, he says that priorities of the movement changes with time. “Now it’s (Dravidian movement’s) priorities is not anti-Brahmanism, it is veering towards equality for all. So we don’t have any problem working with it. In fact, we feel ideologically comfortable working with the proponents of Dravidian movement,” he explains.

Slamming the BJP-led Centre Ravikumar says that the image which helped Prime Minister Narendra Modi win the elections in 2014 has now become a burden for him. He notes, “As far as TN is concerned, people do not really know Dr Manmohan Singh who was the Prime Minister for 10 years. But an old man in a village will know Modi. So I don’t know how it is in other states, but in Tamil Nadu, it is centred around Modi. He symbolizes the whole policies of the BJP and RSS. So by opposing him, we are opposing their entire policy.”

In 2018, Ravikumar was given security after state intelligence received information that he was one of the targets of the assassins who had killed journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh.  Speaking about the social atmosphere in the country surrounding the writers and intellectuals, Ravikumar says that this is the first time in history that anti-intellectualism is this visible. “Now artists, writers etc irrespective of party affiliations are getting attacked and the Sangh Parivar thinks that them being artists and writers is alone enough reason to attack them. Such a vicious atmosphere they (Sangh Parivar) have created,” he alleges.

Alleging that this idea of being against intellectual thinking is spilling over to policy decision as well, Ravikumar points out that such actions are detrimental to the country’s development. “The government is bringing in people with anti-science credentials to head the institutions. It hurts our development. If they keep spreading superstitious ideas on one side, how can they develop science on the other?” he asks.  

Expressing confidence that he will find time to continue his literary work even if he gets elected, Ravikumar says, “Literature will always be with me. So when I lose faith in politics at times or when it drains me out, literature is my shelter.”

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