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August 6, 2000
CMs give Veerappan a positive response
The Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments awaited forest brigand Veerappan's endorsement of their response to his 10 demands as the crisis arising out of the kidnapping of Kannada actor Dr Rajakumar and three others entered the eighth day on Sunday.
Karnataka Chief Minister S M Krishna and his Tamil Nadu counterpart M Karunanidhi, after discussing the demands for almost 150 minutes at the secretariat in Madras, conceded at least two outright.
First, they decided that Karnataka would drop charges under the erstwhile Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act and release prisoners lodged in its jails.
Two, they decided to get the stay vacated in the Karnataka high court on further proceedings of the National Human Rights Commission panel constituted to go into allegations of harassment of villagers in areas where the joint special task force had operated to nab Veerappan.
The response was sent through an associate of Nakkeeran editor R R Gopal, who finally met the bandit at his hideout on Sunday morning.
Karunanidhi and Krishna said Veerappan had made the demands with "great concern" for the Tamils. "We hope he will show concern to millions of Tamil- and Kannada-speaking people and release Dr Rajakumar immediately and earn their goodwill," they added.
Karunanidhi did most of the briefing. Krishna said he endorsed whatever his Tamil Nadu counterpart said.
Asked about Veerappan's alleged connections with a little known extremist band called the Tamil Nadu Liberation Army, Krishna said his government had no information about this.
When it was pointed out that efforts to secure Rajakumar's release did not seem to be transparent, Karunanidhi retorted: "How can it be when the whole drama is taking place in a jungle?"
On reports that Veerappan had the support of some extremist groups, Karunanidhi said it was no crime to champion the cause of Tamil or Tamilians.
Veerappan's foremost demand appeared to be the release of 'innocent' persons in Karnataka jails. The state government said the TADA charges would be dropped immediately, leading to their release.
The other main demand was vacation of the stay on the Justice Sadashiva Commission of Inquiry. He said the Karnataka government should ensure that the commission's report is made public and give Rs 1 million each as compensation to the kith and kin of those murdered and Rs 500,000 each to those who were otherwise affected. He has also demanded deterrent punishment for the guilty police officers. This too has been accepted.
The NHRC had constituted the panel comprising Justice Sadashiva, a former high court judge, and C V Narasimhan, former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, to go into allegations of harassment of villagers and tribals.
The panel held three sittings. But a writ petition was filed in the high court against its constitution and further proceedings were stayed.
The two governments also decided to consider favourably the demand for compensation to the nine affected families of scheduled caste and tribe people killed.
Another demand for the release of five persons from prisons in Tamil Nadu will also be favourably considered.
On Veerappan's demands for the immediate release of 205 thousand million cubic feet of water by Karnataka as recommended by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal and adequate compensation for the Tamil victims of the Cauvery riots of 1991, the governments assured him that the Cauvery River Authority with the prime minister as chairman would take an appropriate decision if there was any problem in releasing the water. The tribunal's final verdict is expected soon, they added.
As for the riot victims, they said the Cauvery Riots Relief Authority, constituted on a directive of the Supreme Court, has got about 10,000 claims, including some 2,000 transferred from Tamil Nadu. It is expected to complete its work in another 12 months.
The disbursement of compensation will be made as specified by the Supreme Court when the authority completes its work and submits its report, they said.
On Veerappan's demand to make Tamil the second language for administration in Karnataka, they cited a central order that in areas where a linguistic minority constitutes more than 15 per cent of the population, government notices, orders and rules should be issued in its language as well. This rule is applicable to all states.
Krishna and Karunanidhi also agreed to install and unveil statues of the Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar in Bangalore and Kannada poet Sarvajna in Madras.
On the problems of tea growers in the Nilgiris, it was pointed out that the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government had already taken several steps that had raised the procurement price of tea and the price of green leaf tea.
On the demand to solve the problems of the Manjolai Tea Estate workers in Tamil Nadu and fix minimum wages for coffee and tea plantation workers in the state and Karnataka at Rs 150 per diem, it was pointed out that the workers get a minimum Rs 74.62 a day. With other facilities, the wages work out to Rs 139, which is more than in Kerala and West Bengal. A further increase could be settled through negotiations, the governments said.
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