The Centre has decided to call members of the Devendrakula Velalar community by their heritage name and not by the names listed on the Schedule of the Constitution, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said here on Sunday. The draft Gazette to amend the Schedule to correct their name as Devendrakula Velalar had been approved.
The announcement comes a few months ahead of the Assembly election in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. At a function to unveil several projects here, Mr. Modi said the draft Gazette would be placed before Parliament at the start of the next session. He also thanked the Tamil Nadu government for the detailed study on this demand. The State government had been backing the demand for a long time, he said.
Recalling his meeting with representatives of the community in 2015 in Delhi, he said: “Their sadness could be seen. Colonial rulers took away their pride and dignity. For decades nothing happened. They told me that they had pleaded with governments but nothing changed. I told them one thing. I said their name Devendra rhymes with my own name: Narendra. I understand their emotions.”
The decision to call all of them Devendrakula Velalar was more than a change of name, he contended. “It is about justice, dignity and opportunity. We all have lots to learn from the culture of the Devendrakula community. They celebrate harmony, friendship and brotherhood. Theirs was a civilisational movement. It shows their self-confidence and self-pride.”
Taking pride in being the only Indian Prime Minister to have visited Jaffna in Sri Lanka, Mr. Modi said: “Our government has always taken care of the welfare and aspirations of our Tamil brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka.” Through development works, India had been ensuring the welfare of Sri Lanka’s Tamil community, he said, recalling the 50,000 houses built for the displaced Tamils in north-eastern Sri Lanka and 4,000 houses in the plantation areas.
“I feel happy to share that India has built the Jaffna Cultural Centre, which we hope to open soon. The issue of Tamil rights has also been taken up by us consistently with Sri Lankan leaders. We are always committed to ensuring that they live with equality, justice peace and dignity,” he said.
Holding that the problem faced by Tamil Nadu fishermen was long-standing, Mr. Modi said: “But let me assure you that my government will always protect their rightful interests. We have ensured early release whenever fishermen are apprehended in Sri Lanka. More than 1,600 fishermen have been released during our tenure. Currently, there is no Indian fisherman in Sri Lankan custody. Similarly, 313 boats have also been released, and we are working for the return of the rest of the boats.”
Pointing to a Union Budget proposal, Mr. Modi said modern fishing harbours would come up at five centres in the country, including in Chennai. “We are optimistic about seaweed farming. This will improve the lives of coastal communities. For seaweed cultivation, a multi-purpose seaweed park will come up in Tamil Nadu.” India was making the world’s fight against COVID-19 stronger, he said. “We have to keep doing whatever we can to develop our nation and make the world a better place. This is what the makers of our Constitution wanted us to do.”