The Tamil Nadu government Wednesday issued a public notice to acquire Veda Illam – the residence of late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa – to convert it into a memorial.
The Chennai collector issued the notification under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. “The project does not involve any displacement of families/relocation,” the notification read.
It further stated that there are no Project Affected Families (PAF) and hence there is no question of relocation, resettlement and rehabilitation. “No area was identified as resettlement area for the purpose of rehabilitation and resettlement of affected families,” it further read.
The land, classified as ‘Ryotwari Mannai Quit Rent’, is a three-storeyed building (Ground + two floors). The notification said the land has five coconut trees, five banana trees, two mango trees, and a jackfruit tree. As per the notice, the legal heir of the property is yet to be ascertained.
Poes Garden, which lies in the bustling Teynampet area in Chennai, has been the epicentre of Tamil Nadu politics for more than three decades. The residence was bought by Jayalalithaa’s mother and film actor Sandhya in 1967. Since then, Jayalalithaa lived in that house till September 22, 2016, when she was shifted to Apollo Hospital after her health deteriorated. She succumbed to her illness on December 5, 2016.
After Jayalalithaa’s demise, her long-time friend VK Sasikala continued to stay in that house with her family. After Sasikala’s arrest in a disproportionate assets case in February 2017, the place came under the scanner for many reasons.
In August 2017, CM Edappadi announced that the place will be converted into a memorial. Following this, Jayalalithaa’s nephew J Deepak and niece Jaya Deepa claimed they were the sole legal heirs of their aunt, and hence they hold the ‘moral and legal’ right to acquire the Poes Garden bungalow and other assets of the former TN chief minister.
The memorial plan was opposed strongly by TTV Dhinakaran, Sasikala’s nephew and leader of Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, too.
Deepa filed a plea in the Madras High court claiming that Poes Garden was private property and couldn’t be turned into public property without their consent. Deepa alleged the government was trying to acquire the property for Rs 38 crore, when its actual worth was more than Rs 100 crore. The case is still pending in the Madras High Court.
The residents of Poes Garden have also been opposing the memorial proposal, claiming it will lead to unnecessary chaos in the otherwise peaceful neighbourhood.
In December 2018 and in January 2019, the Chennai district collector convened public hearings on the issue. The posh locality’s residents vehemently opposed the idea on both occasions, and claimed that if the former CM residence is converted into a memorial, scores of party workers and people will visit the place daily, leading to traffic bottlenecks, apart from impacting sanitation and safety.
In August 2019, the Chennai collector gave permission to convert the residence into a memorial. He said the decision by the state government was the most appropriate one.
In January this year, Banwarilal Purohit, Governor of Tamil Nadu, said a separate memorial dedicated to Jayalalithaa was being built at a cost of Rs 50.80 crore on Chennai’s Marina Beach, where she was laid to rest.
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