December 6, 2016
Over 800 workers in the tea estate in Kodanad in the Nilgiris district, which late chief minister Jayalalithaa used to visit a couple of times a year as director, wish to deify her “by erecting a statue”.
Jayalalithaa’s connection with the Blue Mountains dates back to her acting days, but she strengthen her bond with the locals, particularly with the women, during her periodical visits to the Kodanad tea estate and factory extending over about 900 acres in which she had a stake.
Radhakrishnan, one of the senior estate workers, says, “For others, Jayalalithaa is chief minister and Amma, but for us she is Muthalaliyamma (owner) and God, who has provided a livelihood.”
Stating that the estate has about 800 workers, 85 per cent of whom are women, Radhakrishnan, who spoke on behalf of the workers said that she used to go round the estate in a battery-operated car and enquire about their well being and listen to their grievances.. “For the workers she was always accessible and they would have the opportunity to speak to her from close quarters. She used to give enough money for the education of workers’ children, for conducting marriages and meeting other exigencies like funerals.” he added.
Many workers have gone to Chennai to have a last glimpse of their ‘Muthalaliyamma’”, Radhakrishnan said. Also in the Rose Garden established by her in the tourist town, a rose has been named after her. The Government Botanical Garden here features a pillar shaped like her initials at the head of the main lawn. Jayalalithaa also brought into being a boat house at the Pykara Lake.
She loved the tradition, culture, dance and music of the region’s particularly vulnerable tribal groups, like Todas and Irulas.
Sometimes she used to dance along with the Badagas the largest indigenous social group in the Nilgiris.