J. Anthony Chandrasekharan is a common man who runs a poultry shop in Vembar.
Chandrasekharan is from the Nadar community, which migrated here in the 1800s and has, atleast for the last century or so, been at odds with the resident Paravar community of Vembar.
The Nadars, today, are the economically stronger community, and the allegations are that they have amassed all their wealth by leeching off the Paravars. The Nadars are the businessmen, the seafood company owners and the money lenders while the Paravars the poor fishermen and the labourers. This trend has, expectedly, harboured immense resentment among the communities.
However, Chandrasekharan, or Chandran as he is commonly known, does not identify himself with such metrics. He sights are set higher and his fights are for a nobler cause.
Chandran fights against corruption in Vembar. The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) is his gilded sword.
Chandran began his crusade in 2011, when the government introduced diesel subsidies for fishermen at Rs 49 per litre. There were only about 50 small boats in Vembar, but he discovered that in the papers, the boat owners had pegged the number at 700. He filed a complaint against this, but no action was taken.
In 2013, a petition filed by Chandran resulted in the whole village getting sufficient drinking water during the drought season. Initially, there are several borewells in Thoothukudi, supplying water to the whole district. He says that more than 50,000 litres of water were available for 25,000 people, but later the seafood companies started using water from the borewells for their industries and this created an artificial scarcity of water in the district.
Chandran complained to the Collector that ground water resources were being exploited. An MLA named Krishnaswamy and several others supported his petition and as a result, the District Revenue Officer put out an order declaring that the groundwater from the area could not be sold to seafood companies, as it would affect the lives of the common people.
"But no one follows the order", says Chandran. "The sea food companies now bribe the officials and pump water from the borewells. The order is just on paper. I fought for it alone, and I will continue to fight, but I cannot win without the support of the people."
"I used to be a ward member of this panchayath. I was so fed up with politics that I did not participate in elections after that. There is so much corruption all around. The police and the government officials are all hand-in-glove. The sad truth is that the public will not support me because they are afraid of the police. They don't know their rights and so they don't demand for them. This is why corruption in India will never go away."
When no action was taken by the officials regarding the borewells, Chandran sought support from his party, "Naam Tamilar Katchi". As a result, about 45 diesel motors were sealed by the Tahsildar.
The news appeared in the media and the seafood companies were badly affected. Chandran says that the officials took revenge on him by arresting him on false charges. When he was taking photos of the sealed motors, they framed charges on him for trespassing into private property. He was jailed for four days. The case is still pending.
Some months ago, he found that electricity was being siphoned off from the main transformer in Vembar. When he complained to the police, they took it up and found out that it was in fact the Panchayat office, which was stealing electricity. The police came down heavily on the Panchayat and slapped a penalty of Rs 25000 on them. In revenge, the Panchayat filed a fake complaint against him saying that he had beaten up a wireman. This case too, is still pending in the courts
Chandran has filed more than 200 petitions for the village so far. He is determined to fight against all odds and continue doing what he does because he believesit is his duty as a responsible citizen.