Auto driver sets self on fire over eviction

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A 40-year-old auto-driver set himself ablaze on the terrace of his house on Saturday at Periyar Nagar in Sivakasi, about 70 km from here, when the district administration launched a demolition drive in pursuance of a Supreme Court directive to remove all encroachments on Sirukulam water tank.

Ganesh, the auto-driver, went up to his terrace with a bottle of petrol and shouting protests against the demolition drive, doused himself with the fuel and set a match.

Erupting as a ball of fire, he screamed in pain and jumped on to the neighbour’s terrace before collapsing. Police rushed him to the government hospital where he died.

The demolition drive and the gory suicide of Ganesh triggered public anger.

Another resident, Shanmugam and his wife Irulaayee doused themselves with waste engine oil and tried to immolate but the police overpowered them.

A group of people pelted stones at the demolition squad and they were chased away by the police using lathis.

“This demolition had to be undertaken pursuant to the order of Supreme Court. Adequate advance notice was given to all the people encroaching the water body”, said Virudhunagar district collector Hariharan.

Sivakasi DSP S. Sakthivel told Deccan Chronicle that the Supreme Court order followed a petition of 1977 from the taxpayers’ association which had sought clearing the water body of all the encroachments.

There were about 150 houses on the Sirukulam water tank bed and the Apex Court had set a deadline of August 25 to clear the encroachments.

The district administration had promised the residents three cents of land plus a house worth Rs 6 lakh in lieu of their demolished houses, but the locals did not seem convinced they would get the compensation.

Chief minister J. Jayalalithaa on Saturday ordered Rs 1 lakh as solatium to Ganesh’s family.

“We have been living here for 35 years. Where would we go if our houses are razed down like this?” wailed a woman when the earthmover moved in.

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