Southern Notes: A minister to watch

TN's new Finance Minister PTR has his work cut out for him, shepherding state's finances in these trying times, negotiating with a Centre ‘that is neither compassionate nor competent’ as he puts it

Palanivel Thiagarajan
Palanivel Thiagarajan

SS Kumar

The new finance minister of Tamil Nadu, Dr PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan, better known as PTR, was elected for the second time as an MLA from the temple town of Madurai. His frequent appearances on TV, where he appears to have become a hit, have made him a household name in the state. He has a formidable academic background [a chemical engineering degree from NIT, Trichy, PhD from the State University of New York, Buffalo, and an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management] and Wall Street credentials to boot – Lehman Brothers and Standard Chartered Bank – before quitting to return to his roots and enter politics.

It is not often that anchors on TV are found to be at a loss for words… but that’s what happens when confronted with a politician with a public school accent and expertise on global capital markets. PTR however has his work cut out for him, shepherding TN’s finances in these trying times, negotiating with a Centre ‘that is neither compassionate nor competent’ as he puts it.

Refilling oxygen cylinders

When 24 people died in a district hospital in the district of Chamarajanagar in Karnataka adjoining Tamil Nadu, charges flew thick and fast. The high-profile deputy commissioner [collector/DM] of Mysuru district, Rohini Sindhuri, was accused of ordering dealers not to refill oxygen cylinders from other districts, leading to the deaths.

The doughty DC has sought an apology now after a high court probe panel said there was no evidence and dismissed the charge. The minister in-charge of Chamarajanagar District S Suresh Kumar and the DC M R Ravi had reportedly levelled the allegation. Sindhuri blamed vested interests working against her and said people who had accused her should publicly apologise to the people of Mysuru district.

NRI turns van into ambulance

A young US-returned NRI techie converted his personal vehicle into an ambulance equipped with oxygen and ventilator to help people in Hyderabad. Tarun Kappala, who worked for Deloitte, a consulting firm in the US, has been transporting people to hospitals for free. He got the idea after one of his friends was charged Rs. 34,000 by an ambulance service to take his Covid positive mother to a hospital.

Kappala has made over two dozen trips to ferry patients to hospital; not only does he transport them to hospitals, but also waits and helps them out with admission. A technical project manager at a firm in Hyderabad, he has a mother who’s recovering from a stroke at home, but that hasn’t stopped him from helping out people in need.

In one instance, he said he drove an elderly woman, whose son was in ICU, to hospital for a last glimpse of her husband, a covid patient, who died later, and recalled the woman’s heartfelt gratitude for doing so.

Shrine wears a deserted look

The famous Tirumala Venkateshwara [Balaji] hill temple near Tirupati, the richest and most visited temple in India, recorded the lowest footfall in living memory, with just 2262 pilgrims visiting the temple on May 12.

Southern Notes: A minister to watch

Despite the semi-lockdown in Andhra Pradesh, with all other temples closed except for essential rituals, and suspension of bus services, the Tirumala temple has been kept open – though the free darshan has been stopped – for devotees on payment of Rs 300 for special tickets. But the second wave of Covid prompted many pilgrims to cancel trips. Lakhs of pilgrims usually visit the temple every day, with the numbers swelling over the weekend and auspicious occasions. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams [TTD], the government body which administers the temple, has announced that people holding the special darshan tickets for April 11-May 31 can reschedule it for later.

Killed in Israel

A young woman from Kerala, who was killed in a Hamas rocket attack in Israel, was on a video call with her husband when she lost her life. Soumya Santosh, 32, mother of an 8-year-old boy, was telling her husband about the shelling, when there was a loud blast and the connection was cut. She was killed in the rocket attack, along with an elderly Israeli woman, for whom she was a caregiver.

She was based in Ashkelon, near the Gaza strip and had been working as a caregiver for several years. Soumya and her employer were planning to move to a bunker when they were killed. She had last visited Kerala in 2017.

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