It has been over two years since the death of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, but the controversy surrounding her Poes Garden home refuses to die down. At the Corporation Community Hall in Teynampet, officials of the tehsildar's office were scurrying to set things up for the public consultation on whether to convert the vast residential property of the former CM into a memorial for the late leader.
The residents of the posh locality in Chennai have objected to converting 'Veda Nilayam' into a memorial, citing traffic, sanitation and safety issues. As All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) cadre broke down in memory of the former AIADMK supremo, residents of Poes Garden slammed the district administration for not consulting them as per the Land Acquisition Act.
Meanwhile, the AIADMK government and supporters of Jayalalithaa are keen to see the home converted into a memorial where the public can visit. With residents outnumbering the cadre at the public hearing, the Chennai district collector Shanmugasundaram moderated the hearing.
Nitin Shah, a resident said, â€śIt is a good idea to convert Jayalalithaa's home into a memorial. Now, as it is, there is a memorial at Marina beach. We request to make a new memorial in a large place, where more people can visit. Poes Garden is an exclusive residential area, where no commercial activity is allowed. If there is a memorial, omnibuses, trucks have to ply on the narrow streets of Poes Garden. The roads cannot take such a heavy load.â€ť
Rekha Rangaraj, another long-time resident of the area, said that the traffic that may be caused by building a memorial would affect the elderly people in the locality. â€śWhen she was around, we never faced any inconvenience. On many occasions, I have been unable to take my father to hospital,â€ť she said.
However, SM Krishnan, a resident who said he lives right by Jayalalithaa's house, said that if the government could give it in writing that there would be no bottlenecks, a memorial could be allowed. â€śThe street, where Veda Nilayam is located, is a dead-end. There was a canal there, which was usurped by Stella Maris College. It is a rat hole. If a bus enters, it cannot exit the street,â€ť he said.
The residents also said that the memorial would also invite tea shops and flower shops, which would affect the peace and sanitation in the neighbourhood.
'Memorial, a consolation for those who miss Ammaâ€™: AIADMK
In a dramatic scene, Selvadurai, an AIADMK man and a resident of Nungambakkam, broke down, stating that he would give his life for the building of the memorial. Looking to the residents of Poes Garden, he said, â€śI am touching your feet and begging you. Please allow the construction of a memorial for Amma."
Malarmannan, another AIADMK cadre from Teynampet, slammed the residents of Poes Garden for projecting an image that the whole area would be in tatters if people were to visit. â€śThey are saying that the area will be full of people and traffic. But this is not the case. We know how to conduct ourselves. Moreover, it is natural to convert a great leader's home into a memorial. It was her life that brought pride to Poes Garden. Take the example of Abdul Kalam or Kamarajar; none of the residents in those areas objected,â€ť he argued.
â€śHundreds of people have waited to speak to her all her life. We want to see how the great leader lived. We want to see how she led her great life. It will be a consolation for those who truly miss Amma,â€ť said J Indumathi, a resident of Poes Road, located behind Poes Garden.
As the cadre began to speak, the residents started walking out. However, the Collector assured the residents that the government would take everyone's views into consideration.
The Collector added, â€śAn online registration will be done to enter the memorial. Only a limited number of people will be allowed inside, between 10 am and 5 pm. The crowd management will be done by the police. It is not that an uncontrollable number of people will come.â€ť