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Dalit heads take oath amid uncertainty over staying in office

Written by: Staff

Madurai, Oct 25 (UNI) Bringing to a close a decade-long stalemate, presidents of four reserved panchayats in this region, which earned notoriety for remaining headless since 1996, assumed charge today despite uncertainty over their continuation in office.

Uncertainty prevailed because though reserved, Dalits could not hold office in Pappapatti, Keeripatti and Nattamangalam in backward Usilampatti taluk and Kottakachiyenthal in Virudhunagar, which saw either poll boycott or immediate resignation of elected candidates.

Dominant castes were demanding de-reservation in these panchayats.

Presidents of Pappapatti and Keeripatti, Periyakaruppan and M Balchamy respectively, took the oath in the presence of Marxist MP, P Mohan, the District Collector and Police Superintendent. It was low-key in Nattarmangalam and Kottakachiyenthal where Ganesan and S Karuppan respectively assumed charge.

Except Mr Balchamy, backed by the CPI(M), the three others were candidates reportedly sponsored by caste Hindus. He was declared elected unopposed after the nominations of two other Dalits, sponsored by the dominant castes, were rejected on scrutiny.

In his brief address at Pappapatti, Mr Mohan sought cooperation of all sections to ensure that the presidents completed their full term and promised to get centrally-sponsored development programmes.

Hostility was visible in Keeripatti while it was subdued in Pappapatti. In the former, soon after the swearing in, when enthusiastic supporters lifted up the president, he was allegedly verbally abused by women belonging to the dominant caste. The Collector and Police Superintendent had just left the place.

Earlier, Madurai District Collector T Udhayachandran said the administration would make all efforts to develop the panchayats as model villages and appealed to the people for cooperation.

Talking to UNI, Virudhunagar Distroict Collector S Jawahar said Kottakachiyenthal panchayat president S Karuppan and the six ward members called on him and held discussions for nearly half an hour.

It revolved around equipping the village with adequate infrastructure and enhancing employment opportunities for youth, he added.

Mr Jawahar said he was taking steps to provide training to youth so that they could get employment overseas.


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