Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s chopper landed on a refurbished British-era narrow strip at the under-construction airport to reach the Vellore fort by road on the Chennai – Bengaluru Highway (NH 44) for a public meeting that was held on Wednesday to garner votes for BJP candidate A.C. Shanmugam for the Lok Sabha election. The airport occupies a large portion of the landscape in this ancient village of Abdullapuram.

Abdullapuram awaits the commissioning of the airport to regain its old splendour days of active movement of people and goods. For others, including students, especially at VIT, medical practitioners at CMC, local traders and businessmen, the airport would provide a low-cost travel option . However, delay in commissioning the new facility due to necessary security clearance from the Centre has put a question mark over this proposal. “The new airport will also generate jobs in other areas like taxis, autorickshaws, shops and hotels on the highway. The area around the airport will become a business hub,” said K. Ramesh, a trader. 
Currently, small businessmen, especially in the leather sector, have to depend on trains, mostly at Katpadi railway station where most of the express trains, including Vande Bharat, halt. They seek more long-distance trains to be halted at major railway stations like Ambur, Gudiyatham, Vaniyambadi and Vellore Cantonment.

Availability of water always remains top on the list of requirements of voters in this arid region where borewells go as deep as 1,100 ft to 1,300 ft to pump water for household consumption. Except for a few months during monsoon, Palar river, which runs over 220 km in North Arcot region covering Vellore and Arakkonam Lok Sabha constituencies, remains dry for the rest of the year.

Local bodies, including the Vellore Corporation, manage to supply piped water to households through the Hogenakkal and Cauvery water supply schemes. Regular supply of water remains in demand yet to be met by civic bodies. “Lack of check dams across the Palar and non-restoration of small water bodies like ponds and streams in villages are reasons for water shortage in the region,” said S. Ashokan, a Palar restoration activist in Tirupattur.

Vellore town is one among the six Assembly constituencies that include Anaicut (Vellore), K.V. Kuppam, Gudiyatham, Ambur and Vaniyambadi . The first four Assembly constituencies come under Vellore district and the remaining constituency comes under Tirupattur district.

Anaicut, a small town at the foothills of Jawadhu Hills, is better known for Amirthi zoo, around 30 km away from Vellore town towards Tiruvannamalai. Most of the voters in the area are tribals belonging to Malayali tribes and they own small tracts of farmlands. The town is less polluted and less warmer. However, basic needs like roads, healthcare, and education remain their needs.

Areas such as Vaniyambadi, Gudiyatham, Ambur and K.V. Kuppam have a common grievance – water contamination and its depletion. In Vaniyambadi and Ambur, small waterbodies – ponds and streams and groundwater – were contaminated mainly by tanneries in nearby towns such as Gudiyatham and K.V. Kuppam face depletion of water resources, mainly for farming purposes. 

The ruling DMK has renominated D.M. Kathir Anand, a native of Vellore (K.V. Kuppam) and is contesting against A.C. Shanmugam from BJP and S. Pasupathi from AIADMK. Mr. Anand says he has implemented several civic infrastructure works, including the construction of sub-health centres, street lights, school buildings, bus shelters, and the creation of ponds through the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) funds. He is the son of the DMK’s general secretary and Minister for Water Resources, Duraimurugan, who is also an MLA of Katpadi constituency.

Mr. Shanmugam, who was the founder and president of the New Justice Party (now merged with the BJP), is known for his educational institutions, including Dr. M.G.R. Educational and Research Institute, Rajarajeswari Group of Institutions, and ACS group of institutions in Arani town near Tiruvannamalai. He contested in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll on an AIADMK ticket but lost to Mr. Anand with a margin of over 8,000 votes. He also unsuccessfully contested in the 2014 general election where he again lost to B. Senguttuvan of AIADMK. He said that he would set up free medical centres in many places in the constituency and health camps. As an outreach measure, he claims he has also conducted over 300 free medical camps, job melas and sports tournaments in the constituency for the past few months. 

A doctor by profession, Mr. Pasupathi said that he wanted to improve health and other basic facilities in remote and tribal villages within the constituency. Anaicut and Gudiyatham have several tribal hamlets and remote villages. As he served as government doctor in a remote village in Tirupatur before he gave VRS last year, Dr. Pasupathi said that he knows the pulse of the voters, who have common grievances that affect their day-to-day lives.

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