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The constituency where waste is the biggest issue

May 07, 2009 17:33 IST
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A Ganesh Nadar travels to the heart of Tamil Nadu's prosperous cotton belt, where treating sewage is the biggest electoral issue.

Tirupur is a newly carved district and Lok Sabha constituency, post delimitation in Tamil Nadu. The main candidates in the fray are the Congress's S K Karvendhan and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's C Sivasamy, but newly formed political outfit Kongunadu Munetra Peravai might play the spoilsport here.

The KMP is a political party formed by the affluent and dominant Gounder community, which comprises 20 per cent of the electorate.

Locals believe the AIADMK will win the seat, but the KMP candidate will emerge as the runner-up, pushing the Congress candidate to third place. Most members of the Gounder community are supporters of the Congress, and the KMP will eat into the party's vote share.

The second textile unit in the country -- the first is in Kolkata -- was built in Tirupur in 1893.

The textile industry here is dominated by the Gounders and it exports textiles worth $2 billion. Crippling power shortages had almost brought this industry to its knees, but the situation has improved with the election drawing nearer.

Tirupur boasts of the country's first Private-Public-Partnership initiative in water supply and sanitation. The government is already planning the next PPP initiative, to dispose off effluents from the dyeing units into the sea, which is 350 km away.

"We spend two paise to get a litre of water. And it costs us six paise to dispose off one litre of effluent. So we are spending three times the money just to treat the effluent. We will pay whatever it costs to channel it to the sea. It will be cheaper in the long run," says Murthy, a local business manager.

Disposing effluents from the dyeing units is the biggest issue here, as the untreated waste threatens to contaminate the ground water. Tirupur needs the sea link to discard its industrial wastage.

Tirupur consists of six assembly constituencies -- Perundurai, Bhavani, Anthiyur, Gobichettipalayam, Tirupur (North) and Tirupur (South).

It is a labour intensive area and the AIADMK, which has the support of both the Left Front parties and its allies, has a good chance of winning the seat.

"The AIADMK candidate is a former MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly). He is a local man and enjoys a rapport with the people. The Congress candidate is from Dharapuram and he is considered an outsider," says Balu, a local merchant.

The KMP first shot into the limelight when it supported the practice of toddy-tapping (brewing local alcohol with extracts from coconut and palm trees) which is banned in Tamil Nadu.

Though toddy-tappers are traditionally members of the Nadar community, the KMP supported this agitation because the palm trees here are owned by the Gounders. Chief Minister M Karunanidhi promised recently to lift the ban on toddy-tapping after the election.

Emboldened by this success, the KMP decided to enter electoral politics and has fielded candidates in 11 Lok Sabha seats in western Tamil Nadu. It is expected to make an impact in Coimbatore and Tirupur.

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