Five days after anti Sterlite protests resulted in unprecedented clashes and violence in Thoothukudi, the AIADMK government finally sent a representative to the district on Sunday. But Minister for Information and Publicity and local MLA Kadambur Raju, who visited the injured at the hospital, was evidently not prepared for the onslaught of questions that came his way. Embarrassed and unable to deal with the grilling, he was forced to cut short his visit to the hospital.
Raju, who is the legislator from Kovilpatti constituency, visited the hospital after the district administration and police lifted Section 144 of CrPC in Thoothukudi. According to reports, there was heavy security at the Government hospital ahead of his entry into the hospital. He was accompanied by district collector Sandeep Nanduri and superintendent of police Murali Rambha. Enquiries with two of the injured went smoothly but when he reached the bed of an injured college student, Santhosh Raj, he was confronted by a very angry mother.
"Donāt try to fool us. Treat us with a humanitarian approach,ā K Vasanthi, Rajās mother reportedly warned the minister. Pointing at her son's injured hand she asked, "What would you do if this happened to your son? Don't simply say āmadam, madamā."
And even the as the minister was trying to calm her down, Raj himself jumped into the argument.
"If they (Sterlite) open again will you take blame? Write and give that you will," demanded the injured student.
It is not clear what the minister's exact response was, but rattled by the heated exchange, he soon left the hospital premises.
Later, Raj told the media, "I said all the police must be removed from Thoothukudi. Then I asked if he will take responsibility if Sterlite is opened again. He first said he will write it and give and later he refused to. He has just come for show. Just to show that someone from the party has come. Not to see people's difficulties."
But he was not the only one irked by the minister's behaviour. Others in the ward that the AIADMK leader failed to visit were livid over the alleged apathy of the government.
"He never saw us. He ran in fear. Why couldn't he wait? Even the collector came. Collector came without any police," the relative of an injured protester said in the ward. "Is this the governmentās job? To protect people who are killing the public and not the public? They take our money and betray us. Is this a government? They want to give us Rs. 10 lakh. But I will give them Rs.11 lakh, will they die?" she asked.
Later at a press conference in the district, Kadambur Raju told the media that the Government was taking all necessary action to ensure Sterlite was shut down. He also promised to reduce the security in place in phases. The state government meanwhile increased compensation for the 13 families that lost members in the clashes with police, from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh.