Jayalalithaa government scraps DMK’s pet projects

CHENNAI, june 3 (agencies): Reversing the DMK regime’s pet projects, the Jayalalithaa government in Tamil Nadu on Friday scrapped housing and insurance schemes named after M Karunanidhi and announced a probe into alleged irregularities in the construction of new assembly-cum-secretariat complex. Apparently targeting the Maran brothers, who own a media empire, the government also said it would nationalise the multi-crore rupees cable TV business, over which they have near monopoly, and revive state-run Arasu Cable TV Corporation to manage the industry.
The announcements came in Governor S S Barnala’s customary address to the new Assembly on a day when the DMK patriarch celebrated his 88th birthday albeit on a low-key with his daughter Kanimozhi in jail in the 2G scam case and the party still smarting under the assembly poll rout. Outlining policies of the new government, Barnala said an inquiry commission headed by a former high court judge will probe allegations of “excess and wasteful expenditure and deficiency in the standards of new Secretariat building” besides ‘inordinate’ delay. The new complex is being built at a cost of Rs 1,000 crore. The government would continue to function from the 17th Century Fort St George, he said, adding construction activties at the new complex would be stopped to facilitate the inquiry.
Putting up a brave face, DMK Legislature Party leader M K Stalin said the party was prepared to face the inquiry. As opposition leader, Jayalalithaa had criticised the aesthetics of the complex, inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year, calling it a “circus tent” and vowed not to step into it. Citing “overwhelming demand” from public for revival of Arasu Cable TV Corporation, Barnala said the government would do so “in public interest” and nationalise the cable TV operations without affecting local cable operators, as assured in AIADMK’s poll manifesto. The move is apparently directed at breaking the monopoly of Maran brothers - Union minister Dayanidhi and his brother Kalanidhi - who own the Sun TV network and run the cable TV distribution business through Sumangali Cable Vision.
The Arasu Cable TV Corporation was set up by the Karunanidhi Government in July 2008 after the Marans fell out of favour with the DMK patriarch’s family but it remained dormant after the two sides patched up later. Without naming the Kalaignar Health Insurance Scheme, the government said it was being ‘’terminated’’ since it was not comprehensive and a new scheme would be put in place. Kalaignar Housing Scheme, envisaging free concrete-roof houses to replace three lakh huts, was also being done away with due to ‘shortcomings’. It would be replaced with ‘Solar Powered Green House Scheme’ for rural poor. The governor also announced implementation of a scheme to provide free fans, mixers and grinders from September 15 next, the birth anniversary of late chief minister C N Annadurai, fulfilling another poll promise of AIADMK.