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Tuesday, Dec 06, 2022
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Chennai Corner

Karunanidhi, like most poll pundits, had not factored in that the man who was responsible for Tamil Nadu putting on hold the Rs 1343 Hoganekkal project would be taking over as Karnataka's chief minister...

Chennai Corner
Chennai Corner
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Hoganekkal's Bete Noire 
The man who was responsible for Tamil Nadu putting on hold the Rs 1343 Hoganekkal project to supply drinking water to Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri districts is taking over as Karnataka's chief minister tomorrow. M Karunanidhi, who celebrates his 84th birthday on June 3, can hardly expect B S Yeddyurappa to give him a gift and put the project back on track. With Yeddyurappa, creating enough noise after visiting Hogannekal on the eve of the Karnataka elections that had the two neighbouring states at daggers drawn, it seems unlikely that he will backtrack and serve up the project on a platter.

Karunanidhi, like most poll pundits, did not factor in the BJP coming up trumps for the first time in the south. He assumed that the Congress would win, S M Krishna would be CM and it would be business as usual on the project for which his son M K Stalin, local administration minister, went to Japan and got the funding for the project from the Japan Bank for International Co-operation.

Karunanidhi, stung as much by the BJP coming to power in Karnataka as the question marks over the project, says the project will go according to the blueprint drawn up. He says, by July the project management consultant will be picked, by October the detailed project report and the bid documents will be prepared and by December the tenders will be floated for implementing the project. Optimism? One must remember with general elections due next year, Yeddyurappa will have political compulsions and cannot green light this project although Tamil Nadu's BJP president L Ganeshan describes him as a "nationalist."

A Transit Point For Drugs
Ketamine used to be drug that found its way through Chennai's airport to South East Asia (Malaysia in particular) but over the last one month, it's Heroin. Ketamine is an anesthetic used for the treatment of pets and wild animals. Big pharmaceutical companies outsource the production of Ketamine-based drugs to smaller companies from where pilferage occurs. Over the last year, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and customs official have seized nearly 300 kilogrammes being smuggled from Chennai to lucrative markets in South East Asia. With the drug being 30 times more expensive outside than in India, the drug mafia use couriers to smuggle Ketamine, generally concealed in consignments of idly powder or maida.

But with Heroin, it's generally the false bottom of a suitcase or, as happened with a 23-year-old Nigerian woman, the drug was ingested to be flushed out later. On April 29, DRI officials arrested a 31-year-old Philipino woman, Raechel Benito, and found 3 kg of heroin concealed in her suitcase. She had come from Delhi and was bound for Kuala Lampur. On April 30, customs officials arrested a 25-year-old Thai woman, Punsakon Patchaurut, and found 5 kg of Heroin in the false bottom of her suitcase. She too had come from Delhi and was Kuala Lumpur-bound. On May 23, another Philipino woman, Fernanda Darek Riano(29), was arrested by Customs officials and 2 kg of heroin was found on her. Her route was the same -- Delhi to Kuala Lumpur. The latest -- May 28 -- is 23-year-old Nigerian Rehemamuyanja Namuyanja who had 1.5 kg of heroin with her. She too came from Delhi but was headed for Colombo. The other difference was that her Nigerian handlers made her swallow 30 capsules of the drug -- 10 gm each of Heroin was put in a polythene cover and then wrapped in a condom -- and 900 grams of it was found in her rectum.

Time To Let The Dogs Out
Incidentally, in the aforementioned smuggling cases, the scanners at the airport had waved all three suitcases of the two Philipinos and Thai women and it was only their suspicious movements that led to a second check leading to their arrest. The problem is that the scanners are manned by untrained personnel deputed by various airlines. Requests to the Bureau of Civil Aviation to give trained staff to operate scanners have not worked.

Customs officials have now put up a proposal to get two sniffer dogs to catch drug traffickers. At Mumbai and New Delhi there are a total of seven dogs to sniff out drugs and even explosives. "Sniffer dogs at the airport or railway stations always act as a deterrent for anti-social elements. The Customs wants to send the message loud and clear to smugglers that they should stop operations from Chennai," says C Rajan, Commissioner of Customs (Airport).

It seems clear from the recent frequent seizures that drug smugglers do find the Chennai airport porous or they would not be sending their couriers through it. Rajan says, "We have written a letter to the Commissioner, Directorate of Logistics, New Delhi, functioning under the Ministry of Finance, to provide two sniffer dogs for Chennai airport to stop the smuggling of Ketamine Hydrochloride and other drugs," he says.

One of the dogs will be used at the airport while the other will be on duty at the air cargo complex and courier terminal. Since many couriers seem to be passing unnoticed through security check, this is where they are going to be greeted by the sniffer dogs.

Who Dares Wins
This is the feel good story of J Shalini who triumphed -- with a whopping 83 per cent -- in her Class X exam of the CBSE although she was hobbled in an accident on her way to the exam centre on March 5. As she and her father neared the centre, a courier van crashed into their bike leaving her father badly injured and Shalini with a broken leg. While her father was rushed to hospital, Shalini went to the school determined to write the Tamil exam despite the excruciating pain.

She was allowed to take the exam lying down with A I Nigazh acting as her scribe. She had to overcome the grogginess brought on by the pain killers but she found that Nigazh "wrote very well and her pace suited me."

Right after the exam, Shalini went in for surgery and took the rest of the papers from her wheelchair. Her leg still has to heal but while she says that she had wanted to get over 90 per cent, she is still happy with her result.

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