Day 1 of Cuddalore to Chennai Cycle Tour flagged off successfully by local leader Kolathur Mani

Chennai, November 27, 2006
Report From Nity: DAY 1, 11:00 pm
We set off on schedule at 11.00 am and the first cycle crsis occurred within 20 metres of the start. We got cycle fixed at Old Town, Cuddalore and carried on. Earlier the flag off was good with a decent media response. Main group representatives spoke about the situation in Cuddalore but S. Ramanathan of SACEM ended the meeting with a memorable statement “they say that if the country wants to develop the youth need to dream, in SIPCOT youth beg for a good nights sleep in order to dream.
Kolathur Mani introduced the people of Mettur at the launch he said that people living next to Chemplast’s PVC factory find life very difficult and that they have come in solidarity to the people of Cuddalore. They have forfeited their daily wages to be with the residents of Cuddalore and join them in the struggle. The representatives from Mettur included Madhusudhanan, father of M. Samivel who was exposed to a deadly chlorine gas leak when he was just 20 days old.
The representatives from the West Gonur Farmers Association spoke about the condition of agriculture in Mettur. All wells are polluted in the vicinity of Chemplast and nearly 5000 acres of land has been wasted. The company does not even have an ambulance for emergencies like their frequent chlorine gas leaks due to which many residents have been seriously injured and hospitalized. The farmers also said that they have been living with Chemplast for the past 50 years and that it is extremely dishonest in their dealings with the local people.
En route participants met and spoke to passers by and people at local stalls about the purpose of their journey. They also stopped at all roadside tea stalls and zealously spoke about the problems of SIPCOT Cuddalore and about its relevance to Bhopal.
We passed the SIPCOT chemical complex but since the wind was blowing south to south east we could not smell the industries on the ECR. Despite this there were occasional strong whiffs from Shasun and Tantech. Two smells were the most noticeable, Shasun’s strong detergent like smell and SPICs characteristic shit like smell that shocked people.
Just before lunch-time at Sangolikuppam, Gaana Vijay sang a Tamil Song
‘Naarde Naarde’ that literally means ‘it smells it smells’ for the people waiting for food, an appropriate song for the kinds of smells that lingered in the air.
After lunch we set off for Thyagavalli Panchayat where upon arrival the local elected representatives who had issued a resolution against
Chemplast’s proposal in Cuddalore greeted us. We were also offered
refreshments which were basically local drinks filled into Coke and Sprite bottles, a neat home grown way of defeating the multinationals. We also drank tender coconut water in Thyagavalli and it tasted absolutely fantastic in complete contrast to the tender coconut in SIPCOT. The reason for this according to the locals is the absence of industries in Thyagavalli. Similar experiences have also been felt in Mettur where the groundwater has been heavily contaminated.
From Thyagavalli we reached Ambedkar Nagar for a brief period the ride
overall was extremely pleasant with a gentle cool breeze flowing throughout. The sun was pretty harsh during some parts of the day and some of the participants suffered burns.
The next stop was Chitrapettai. Here we had to go door to door to invite people for the programme. Kosu Mani of Tamilnadu Meenavar Munnetra Kazhagam, A. Mani of west Gonur Farmers Association and Kolathur Mani spoke about the situation in SIPCOT Cuddalore. Following which the LCD projector was set up for the film screening only to discover that the power plug was missing and after a 20 minute long attempt to fix the glitch plans for the screening had to be abandoned.
On departure the police at Chitrapettai escorted us to the main road and warned us to watch out for speeding vehicles, they asked us to maintain a single file as long as we were on the road.
By now it was dark and 3 cycles gave way. We somehow dragged them to Puduchatram, our halt for the night. Here the local people were not intimated so there were no arrangements for dinner so we all set off in different directions and finally found the last few Dosais in Puduchatram for dinner. This did not in anyway dampen the sprits; its 10:45 pm and people are still up and chatting. We are on the veranda of a large building in Puduchatram where we will spend the night, we have only one toilet for 25 of us. Nature’s calls will have to be answered on the road side as we need to be on the road by 7am in order to stick to the schedule.

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