The proposed pen-shaped memorial for late DMK veteran M Karunanidhi has been embroiled in controversy since the idea was tabled. The minutes of the public meeting conducted for the proposed monument were leaked on this week, triggering fresh criticism. The Quint accessed the document that has not yet been uploaded officially in Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board or Chennai district administration websites.
These are the key findings of the report:
What is this memorial? The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin-led government believed a memorial corresponding to his title 'Kalaignar,' which in Tamil translates to "scholar of arts," would be his iconic fountain pen.
The 'Muthamizh Arignar Dr Kalaignar Pen Monument' is planned to be constructed in the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of Marina Beach in Chennai, at an estimated cost of Rs 81 crore. The monument consists of a 42-metre-tall pen statue-cum-pedestal, built over half an acre of reclaimed sea at a point where the sea is six-meter-deep.
Why is it being opposed? The statue is to be erected over half an acre of reclaimed sea, which is part of a patchwork of productive fishing grounds. Fishers from Nochikuppam to Urur Kuppam, who live on the shore and rely heavily on this coastline said they weren’t consulted during the conceptualisation of the project. Several environmental activists have raised concerns against the project as it falls under Coastal Regulation Zones (CRZ) IA, II, and IV(A) areas.
What's in the minutes? The meeting minutes recorded 34 voices, of which 22 welcomed the project and 12 voiced their opposition against the construction of the pen monument.
What happened on the day of the meeting? A public hearing was held on 31 January that turned chaotic as several groups such as the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) raised objections. The party leader Seeman said he would break the monument if it was built in the sea.
Voices allegedly misrepresented? The opinion of Thirumurugan Gandhi, founder of May 17 political movement, was incorrectly stated. The meeting minutes stated that Gandhi had informed that the pen monument project "has to be constructed more widely."
However, in actuality, he had registered his strong opposition to the proposed project during the meeting.
The document reads that Magesh, President of the All India Traditional Fisherman Association, Nochikuppam expressed his support. However, it goes on to state that the occurrence of sea erosion is rapid in North Chennai areas and construction of any structure obstructing the sea coast aggravates the situation.
Serious concerns of sea erosion raised: Arul Muruganantham, General Secretary, Satta Panchayat Iyakkam opposed the setting up of the project stating that construction of memorial is permissible only in exceptional situations and that this wasn’t one such situation. V Prabhakaran from Poovulagin Nanbargal quoted the recent Chennai Action Plan report that informed there will be a sea water intrusion of 100m towards the land during the next five years.
Several written petitions were also submitted to oppose the project.
TN's justification for construction over sea: The proposal by the Executive Engineer of the Public Works Department, Chepauk, Chennai detailed how they intend to be environment-conscious with this initiative.
They justified the proposal by claiming sewage generated during the construction phase will be used for the green belt developed within the premises and sludge will be used as manure for the belt. The proposed activity shall not interfere with the fishermen, marine patrol and movement of public and fishing boats and no ground water from Costal regulation zone area shall be tapped for the project, they claimed.