‘PERIYAR Respectable Leader in the 20th Century’

Text of the address by Shri K. Sankaranarayanan, Governor of Maharashtra  at the presentation of K. Veeramani Award for Social Justice at Ravindra Natya Mandir, Sayani Marg, Prabhadevi, Mumbai on Saturday,  the 11th January 2014.

Hon’ble Shri Chhagan Bhujbal, Minister for Public Works and Tourism, my esteemed friend Dr. K. Veeramani, President of Dravidar Kazhagam, Dr Illangovan, Dr. P. Anbalagan, members of the Periyar International, sisters and brothers…

I am indeed delighted to have been asked to present the Dr K. Veeramani Award for Social Justice’ to Hon’ble Minister for Public Works and Tourism Shri Chhangan Bhujbal.

The Award has been instituted by the followers of Periyar E.V. Ramasami, one of the most venerable social reformers of India, to honour his worthy disciple Dr. K. Veeramani, the President of the Dravidar Kazhagam.

The late Periyar E.V. Ramasami was a respectable leader in the 20th century, particularly in Tamil Nadu. Two events stand out in the life of Periyar. The first was the Vaikom Satyagraha of 1924 – 25 and the other was the Self Respect movement, founded by him

Having experienced discrimination at the hands of the so-called upper castes, Periyar decided to enter into temples and to make temple -  roads accessible for people of all castes in Vaikom in Kerala, which was part of the princely state of Travancore during 1924-25. Periyar had to face assaults, vilification and opposition from the dominant sections of society. No ordinary mortal could have done as much successfully as Periyar did. He gave dignity to every individuals, high or low. There can be only one  such Periyar Ramasamy. He was unique.

It is nice to see that Dr. K. Veeramani, whom I have had the privilege of knowing, has been carrying forward the legacy of great work of social emancipation through various welfare and humanitarian institutions created by him. I congratulate Dr. Veeramani for his dedicated service to society.

I was impressed to note that the ‘K. Veeramani award’ has been presented to stalwarts like late Shri V P Singh, late Shri Sitaram Kesari, Dr M Karunanidhi,  Madam Mayawati and others. I would like to compliment the organizers for selecting Shri Chhagan Bhujbal for this year’s award.

I have known Shri Chhagan Bhujbal at a distance for the last many years. But I had the good fortune of knowing him intimately after coming to Maharastra. Shri Bhujbal is one of the most experienced and capable ministers in Maharastra with  a clear vision for development and welfare of the poor and the downtrodden. I have seen his excellent  work in the areas of social justice, education and public works, be it in Nashik, Pune or Mumbai.

He knows the pulse of the people.

Shri Bhujbal commands respect and a following even outside the State. I congratulate Shri Bhujbal for having been selected for the prestitgious Veeramani award.

The State of Maharastra has had a great tradition of social reform. Leaders like Mahatma Phule, Savitribai Phule, Shahu Maharaj, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Maharshi Karve and many others braved hardship while trying to change the mindset of society. Thanks to the work of these noble people, Maharashtra is reckoned amongst the most progressive States in the country. Thanks again to the work of these leaders that we have constitutional guarantees for equality and social justice.

However, we still have a long way to go in changing the attitude and mindset of the people and society. Social in-justice is too deeply rooted in our society to disappear any sooner. The process of globalisation initiated by our national leaders in 1991 has certainly put India on the path of faster growth and economic development. However, that is still to benefit large sections of our population, particularly the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, the Other Backward Classes, the differently – abled, minorities and others. The rich-poor divide is widening. We have to guard our people from illiteracy, hunger and exploitation in the new economic order.

We cannot lose our guard against orthodox elements who want to perpetuate social inequalities and push forward their regressive agenda.

I would appeal to organisations like Dravidar Kazhagam to continue to work for the economic empowerment of the socially and economically backward people through education, training and skill development.

Dr. K. Veeramani deserves our heartly compliments for carrying forward the good work of Periyar by bringing together the followers for Periyar from over the world. I applaud the work of Periyar International, USA and wish the members  a success in their future endeavours.

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