Karunanidhi’s gifts to Thoothukudi

“Thenpandi kadal muthe, theerndhanaiyo undhan vazhvu,” eulogised a grieving M. Karunanidhi, when he paid homage to K.V.K. Swami in 1956.

Swami, the then secretary of the combined Tirunelveli district and serving as a Municipal Councillor, was close to Karunanidhi. He was murdered in an intra-party conflict on North Cotton Road by partymen who were envious of his growing influence within the DMK.

Several decades later, in 1998, Karunanidhi etched his name in history when he announced that the Collectorate building would be named after Swami. The building, constructed at a cost of Rs. 4.4 crore and called KVK Swami Maligai, was inaugurated on September 16, 1998, by Karunanidhi. The earlier building was on Beach Road.

Swami, who also had a stint with the Dravidar Kazhagam, was known to be close to Anna and Periyar as well. “In fact, Periyar once said that Swami would be made thalapathi (lieutenant) if a separate Dravida Nadu was formed,” said party district treasurer S. Raveendran.

Further, the former CM dedicated the master plan complex housing the Collectorate and office of the Superintendent of Police to former Chief Minister K. Kamaraj’s mother Sivakami Ammayar. Besides the Collectorate complex, a number of other endowments to the district during Karunanidhi’s regime would stand to his credit.

On the same day, he also inaugurated Tamil Nadu Maritime Academy, the first of its kind in Tamil Nadu and the second in the country. It helps young students take up courses to become part of the crew on merchant ships. This was initially under Poompuhar Shipping Corporation, but is now under Tamil Nadu Maritime Board.

During Karunanidhi’s last stint as Chief Minister, on August 5, 2008, Thoothukudi Municipality was upgraded as a Corporation. Earlier, in 1986, in the MGR regime, Thoothukudi district was carved out of Tirunelveli.

Moreover, in 2000, Karunanidhi, who felt that the neighbouring Kerala had many more medical colleges, started a number of medical colleges in Tamil Nadu. Among the new colleges, the Thoothukudi Medical College was the first to be started.

In keeping with his respect for historical figures, he ordered construction of the Kattabomman memorial fort in Panchalankurichi – made to resemble the original fort destroyed by the British – and a memorial for Veeran Sundaralingam.

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