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    Fishermen problem a major poll issue in TN

    Ramanathapuram: While there is no dearth of talking points in campaigns for the Tamil Nadu assembly polls, with everything from 2G spectrum scam to promises of freebies thrown in, key issues discussed by people in this district are how to find permanent solutions to fishermen's problems, industrial backwardness and unemployment.

    Fishermen in this district often face the problem of being "harassed" by their Sri Lankan counterparts and naval personnel of that country, while fishing in the Palk Straits.

    Though the DMK government claims to have solved drinking water scarcity of the district, which shares the maritime border with Sri Lanka, the major issue of the harassment faced by fishermen continues to be unresolved and worsening by the day.

    Late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Kamaraj introduced the planting of "Karuvelam" trees (Biological name Acacia Nilotica and used in charcoal making) in this water-starved backward district so that people could earn their livelihood at least from charcoal manufacturing.

    The measure by Kamaraj helped improve living condition of the people, said sitting Ramanathapuram MLA and candidate for the constituency Hasan Ali.

    However, he agrees that the fishermen's problem needs to be solved as several of them have been killed in alleged attacks by Sri Lankan Navy.

    The government, in the past five years, had tried to improve tourism facilities in order to attract tourists and pilgrims, who throng in lakhs to the famous Ramanatha Swami temple of Rameswaram, Ali said.

    The BG conversion of train track had also improved the status of the district from the most backward status to a medium level district, he said.

    Former AIADMK minister and present DMK candidate of Muthukulathur constituency in the district, Sathyamurthy, claimed the land value in the Ramanathapuram district was almost equal to that of the developed districts like
    Tiruchirappalli or Namakkal.

    But his rival AIADMK candidate Murugan said the potential for beach tourism, eco tourism and vast stretches of vacant land where power could be generated had not been exploited.

    There was scope for developing coir industry and diary farms, he said, adding, concrete efforts had not been taken by the ruling party to tap them. The neighbouring districts such as Virudhunagar and Tuticorin were better developed, alleged S Sundararaj, AIADMK candidate of Paramakudi who is facing K V R Ram Prabhu of Congress.

    "We don't have even small industries, not even tiny and cottage industries. What is the government doing about it?" he asked.

    He said the government could exploit festival tourism better as the temples in the district were very famous. Tiruvadanai constituency, with vast stretches of paddy lands has assumed importance as the Minister for Slum Clearance, S P Thangavelan is contesting.

    The DMK leader contested in Kadaladi constituency earlier but it has now been merged with other constituencies. Apart from a spinning mill where 3,000 people were employed, there is no other employment-providing industry in this constituency where Thangavelan is in battle with DMDK's Mujibur Rahman.

    With the scope for revival of Sethusamudhram Shipping Channel Project remote, the alternative for developing the constituency is improving Thondi fishing harbour, officials at the Department of Rural Development Agency (DRDA) said. Survey was going on to establish a chemical factory in the constituency, they said.

    Youth from the district are also migrating to Tiruppur, Coimbatore and middle-east countries in search of jobs. DMK candidate for Muthukulathur, Sathiyamurthy, agreed that even now, Mudhukulathur and Kadaladi were most backward areas.

    Except Pasumpon Muthuramalinga Thevar, the district has not produced any politically influential leaders.

    There are 9,05,711 voters in the district comprising of Kadaladi, Mudukulathur, Paramakudi (R), Ramanathapuram and Tiruvadanai assembly constituencies.