March 25, 2012

Save Mount Road heritage

Eight-hour-long power cuts. Rising summer temperatures that cross 37 degrees. And views that power from atomic plants can help make life easy for you.

Factors to win your argument if you are against the anti-nuke plant community in the coastal town of Kudankulam in south Tamil Nadu.

And the arguments are convincing if you are a businessman or factory owner.

But the pros and cons are not lost on young people as we interact with them on the side of a conference at the Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, outside Tirunelveli town. And this is heartening.

So what role have youth played in the anti-Kudankulam agitation in the villages that fringe the Russian-built 2000 watt atomic power plant which has got into working gear now?

Idinthakarai, the focal point of the agitation is a 90-minute taxi ride from Tirunelveli, done faster on a Sunday. Youths are streaming into the thatched space adjoining the Lady of Lourdes church. This is the 216th day of the campaign and the youths of the district's Catholic Church have decided to revisit their role and contribution to this process.

"We sowed the seed but the women took over and now the elders want us to be active," says Pravin. He and his colleagues wear black Tees with Tamil legends that oppose the atomic plant.

Here, many youths with better skills get jobs in the Persian Gulf; others take to the traditional fishing which is also doing good. The young men tell me that when they have time they get involved in the anti-nuke campaign.

That Sunday, as the sun rises small groups of youths from Chennai, Kanyakumari and elsewhere stream in to show solidarity.

A deacon of this church, in his 20s chats with me after Sunday Catechism class. "I have no problems being part of this struggle but we are restrained."

The church is an integral part of the lives of over 75 coastal fishing villages and the interplay is strong and a given.

Back in Madras, the first set of buildings on Mount Road to be demolished to make way for Metro Rail project face the bulldozers. These were once an integral part of my life; of many other lives when Madras had one showpiece road and one highway.

Store owners are also disturbed with displacement and traffic regulation.

Mount Road is heritage. And I wonder how seniors with memories and youths with cameras, videos and voices can campaign to make the powers respect this heritage.

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