The newly appointed Assistant Collector of Palakkad district, Umesh Kesavan, put up a Facebook post on August 9, recounting his recent visit to a remote hamlet in Attappady, Kerala.
Along with other district administration officers, Umesh had visited a hamlet in Attappady the previous day in connection with the state government’s Suchitwa Bharata Mission. He later penned down his observation about the hamlet.
Suchitwa Bharata Mission aims to declare the state as open-defecation free by November this year.
In his Facebook post, Umesh wrote that though the hamlet lacks basic amenities such as proper roads and functional street lamps, Tamil actor Vijay’s popularity had reached the remote location. So much so that a bunch of people, including some children who had dropped out of school, shared their favourite pastime with him - which is to watch Vijay movies.
“Got a chance to visit a remote hamlet in the Attapady tribal block of Palakkad district yesterday.The roads were non-existent, the street lights had gone into hiding, toilets were a no-no (When asked "where is your toilet?", a guy pointed out the entire hill around him and said "it's all our toilet") and there was general apathy towards government. A bunch of guys there were not interested in going to school as they found it pointless anyway. They had no clue about the society around them. When asked what do they do to pass time during non-agricultural seasons/weekends, one guy said "We watch Vijay movies and songs in Tamil channels all the time". Crores and crores of social welfare funds had not reached that untouched remote hamlet. Only Vijay had reached,” Umesh wrote on Facebook.
The post has since garnered much attention, particularly for its mention of Tamil actor Vijay.
Elaborating on his intention behind putting up the post, Umesh said, “The take-away from the conversation is how the medium of cinema has been able to make an impact in their lives, even when basic amenities fail to reach them. No doubt the actor is immensely popular in the hamlet. What the district administration must do is to tap into this popularity to bring development policies to the hamlet.”
However, the Assistant Collector, who assumed office a month ago, is unhappy about the kind of reception the post has received.
“My post was not about the actor, but about the people in the hamlet. Nowhere does it say that the people of Attappady do nothing other than watch Vijay films. Sadly, that is how many people have ended up interpreting the post,” Umesh told The News Minute.
He clarifies that though the popularity of actor Vijay in the hamlet is unprecedented, his observation came out of interacting with a few people.
“It is illogical to generalize and attribute this behaviour to the tribal community in Attappady. The observation is true only for that particular hamlet, which has a population of not more than 200 people,” he clarified.
The Assistant Collector plans to do just that and is hoping to invite the actor to the tribal block, as part of Suchitwa Bharat Mission. However, Umesh is well aware of the limitations of his official powers.
“As the Assistant Collector, it is not in my hands to rope in the actor as an ambassador. But I shall definitely take it up with the committee members,” Umesh states.