A Ponnusamy is articulate and expressive. Representing the Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM), he appears to be very clear about what he wants and has concrete plans to develop his constituency and help dairy farmers in Tamil Nadu. He is also the President of TN Milk Dealers’ Employees’ Association. Contesting from Perambur constituency, where he has been a resident since 1997, he feels that he has a better understanding of the problems faced by the people of the constituency.
The northern part of the city has been a DMK bastion for a long time now, and Ponnusamy will be facing off against R D Shekar of the DMK. How does he plan to take the challenge and catalyse change if he wins? We spoke to him and here are some excerpts from the interview:
Was your political entry pre-planned?
No, I revere great thinkers like Kamarajar Ayya. But getting into politics was accidental. I have always been critical of this government and their reforms; I would say the general state of affairs led me to enter politics.
In 2017, we were fighting with the Minister for Milk and Dairy Development, K T Rajenthra Balaji over milk adulteration and they levelled false accusations against me. At around the same time, Kamal Hassan sir also came under the scanner for tweeting against the government. I then felt that I should meet him and discuss the state of affairs in Tamil Nadu. So I did, and suggested that people like him should get into politics to catalyse change.
We have been supporting Kamal sir ever since he started his political outfit. I had been having discussions with him since then and out of the blue, one day, he suggested that I should support him by joining the party. I did not have time to think over it, but at the same time could not deny it when I was offered the designation of state secretary of MNM’s Labour Wing.
What is your ambition as an aspiring MLA?
I am Kamarajar ayya’s follower. I have great admiration for his reforms and want to follow his footsteps. I got inspired by how he served Tamil Nadu and the kind of welfare schemes he introduced. My ambition is to catalyse change in the same way that Kamarajar did and set an example.
What are the problems that people have shared with you over the course of your campaign?
Some of the important issues raised by the residents here are:
- Their struggle due to the incomplete railway underpass near Vyasarpadi Jeeva railway station that connects north Chennai and Central Chennai
- Mosquito menace
- Health hazards caused by Kodungaiyur dumpyard
- Contamination in drinking water and no access to drinking water in some localities
- Pollution caused by industries in Vyasarpadi
- Frequent power outages
What are the top three issues you resolve to fix in your constituency on priority?
If I become the MLA, I will ensure completion of the Jeeva railway underpass, find a resolution for the Kodungaiyur dump yard and (re)engineer the stormwater drain system in my constituency. I will complete these three key issues within three years of assuming charge.
At MNM, we have developed a system to hold ourselves accountable: we sign an agreement document with the timelines for completing pending issues. The agreement will be signed by the candidate. If we do not fulfil our promises, we will resign from the office or our president [Kamal Hassan] will oust us.
Besides resolving the issues of my constituency, as an MLA, I will also focus on creating new laws. I head the Milk Dealers’ Employees’ Association, and I will bring in new laws to regulate the pricing of milk that will benefit dairy farmers.
The manifestos released by DMK and AIADMK state that the price of milk provided by private firms will be reduced by Rs 2. However, the private companies acquire milk for a much lower price, but sell the same at a higher price. This does not benefit the farmers at all. 84% of people in Tamil Nadu buy milk from private companies. On the other hand, no efforts are taken to increase the production and distribution by Aavin.
What do you think about the performance of the current MLA R D Sekar?
The last time he visited the constituency was during the last election campaign. When the 2021 Assembly Election date was announced, people in the constituency started getting calls from his office, enquiring about their grievances. Even I received a courtesy call. He has been an MLA for 1.5 years now and I do not understand why he could not meet the people of his constituency in all these months.
What is your pitch? Why should people vote for you?
My constituency has seven wards in total. If elected to power, I will ensure that I visit one ward everyday to meet my constituents and listen to their grievances. This is one of the biggest duties that I found missing in the present or past MLAs of Perambur constituency.
Air pollution and industrial pollution are huge issues in North Chennai. Is tackling this on your agenda and how?
Air pollution in my constituency is caused by two things — the Kodungaiyur dump yard, industrial estate at Vyasarpadi and SIDCO at Kannadasan Nagar. I have worked out a solution for shifting the dump yard. The options are to either shift or segregate the legacy waste and compost the wet waste and use the dry waste for other purposes like laying roads and recycling the rest of it.
There are a lot of industries at Vyasarpadi that emit harmful substances. I do not know if the authorities from the State Pollution Control Board are inspecting these industries to ensure that the emissions are within permissible limits. If we monitor the industries well and take action against them when they flout regulations, we can bring down air pollution by 50%.
There is a general perception that north Chennai has been largely neglected and has fallen behind in terms of job creation. What is your proposal to deal with this gap?
North Chennai is home to working-class people. One of the important points made by MNM is to help workers become entrepreneurs. If any person is interested in starting their own firm, MNM will provide an arena and aid them.
As far as my constituency is concerned, there are slums. However, the governments, so far, have lured people here by providing freebies instead of teaching them any skills or upskilling them. By doing so, we can empower such communities so that they find employment and can stand on their own, without expecting anything for free.