Cows, dogs defecate near Kalam’s kabar in Rameswaram; memorial work at snail’s pace
Rameswaram, Dec 20: Five months after the demise of former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, his burial place (kabar) at Pei Karumbu in Rameswaram remains neglected. The work for the proposed memorial has not taken off yet.
Dogs and cows defecate in an around the kabar. Plastic and papers are thrown all over the place. Visitors, in their excitement to get a closer look at the kabar for taking photographs, sneak through the barricades regularly.
Upset family members at House of Kalam say they are hurt by the neglect from the government.
"It was the wish of the government that Kalam be buried at Pei Karumbu. We agreed to it keeping his followers in mind. Otherwise all our family members are buried at Abil Kabil Dargah in Rameswaram, which is maintained by us," APJM Maraikayar, 99-year-old elder brother of former President of India, told OneIndia.
We will build a memorial with people's support: Maraikayar
Maraikayar said, the politicians have gone back on the promises they made soon after the demise of his brother.
"We are very upset. At this age do you think I can run around? If the government doesn't want to build the memorial at the kabar, people of Rameswaram, with the support of his students across the world, will build one," says an upset Maraikayar.
The family members say that they are moved by the support from the police, who are keeping the kabar and the make-shift shelter intact. A police outpost in the vicinity has constables doing eight-hour shift, 24X7.
"It is not the duty of the police to clean the area. We are told that the ground is cleaned only once in three days now. Lots of people visit the place and it is important that the area is kept clean and in a dignified manner," says a family member.
Rameswaram Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) B Muthuramalingam told OneIndia that his men are tasked with the security duty only.
"We do not get into the maintenance aspect as that falls under panchayat. The visitors flow increases on Saturdays, Sundays and on festival days. We are in touch with the family regularly," says Muthuramalingam.
TN has done its bit; over to New Delhi: MP Anwar Raja
Speaking to OneIndia from Delhi, A Anwar Raja, Member of Parliament from Ramanathapuram, representing the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, claimed that the state government has done everything it could do in a short span of time.
"We have allotted 1.5 acres of land for the construction of a befitting memorial for Dr Kalam. Our leader (J Jayalalithaa) has declared so many initiatives in honour of Dr Kalam. It is left to the central government to take up the job further ahead," says Anwar Raja.
He said he had even raised the matter in Parliament during Zero Hour last week. "There has been no price-worthy effort from the BJP government to honour Dr Kalam in New Delhi or in Rameswaram. It is not in the hands of the state government and the delay is not justified," says Anwar Raja.
He said the government has not replied to his question in Parliament with many MPs cutting across party lines supporting his views.
Anwar Raja said that under the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), a high-mast light was erected at the kabar recently. He said a bus stop is also ready to be functional soon, built with funds from MPLADS.
The MP said he was told that the decision to construct the memorial was with the Ministry of Defence, a fact OneIndia couldn't verify.
Calls and text messages to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) head Dr S Christopher and Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister Dr G Satheesh Reddy went unanswered.
People's President cannot be neglected: MLA Dr Jawahirullah
Interestingly, Dr MH Jawahirullah, Ramanathapuram MLA, from Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), had a different take on the issue.
"This should not be just a memorial alone. In fact that is not Dr Kalam wanted. His burial place should be one which reflects his life and mission. Besides the kabar, there should be a library, science centre and healthcare centre," says Dr Jawahirullah.
He said the memorial for Dr Kalam should be a different one.
"But, we are surprised that nothing has come up in five months. A great man, whom the nation followed passionately, seems to have been neglected now. The Central Government will have to reply for this negligence," says Dr Jawahirullah, a former professor.
He said if Dr Kalam's kabar is still under a make-shift shelter, it clearly shows the negligence of the government.
"People's President deserves a better treatment. I had suggested to the state government that a college should be started at Pei Karumbu. The state government should run the college, which will serve the people of the region. Remember, even Dr Kalam had to travel a lot for his higher studies for want of good institutions in the area," Dr Jawahirullah.
Land transferred to Central Government: Collector Nanthakumar
When contacted K Nanthakumar, Ramanathapuram Collector said the district administration had allotted 1.5 acres of land as per the government directive.
"The DRDO officials from Chennai had visited Pei Karumbu. Officials from the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) too surveyed the area. The Government of India has to carry forward the work," says Nantha Kumar.
The Collector said that the land has been already transferred to the Central Government with the proposal papers to the same effect sent to the Government of Tamil Nadu.
With the one-time strong Kalam team all scattered and the family distancing themselves from his aides to keep controversies at bay, it is now left to be seen what the state and central governments would do to salvage the pride.
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. Currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow with University of Mysore, he is a Consulting Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)