Chennai: Tamil Nadu Forest Minister Dindigul C. Sreenivasan’s visit to the Theppakadu Elephant Camp in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve Thursday has become the talk of Twitter after a video of him asking two tribal boys to remove his slippers went viral.
Accompanied by officials from the forest department and Nilgiri District Collector J. Innocent Divya, he was visiting the tiger reserve to inaugurate a 48-day rejuvenation camp for captive elephants. As part of the visit, Sreenivasan had to enter a shrine at the camp where two elephants were to do a puja of Lord Vinayaga.
Standing outside the shrine, the video shows, Sreenivasan called two boys to unbuckle his sandals, and one of them obliged.
The ADMK minister’s act invited condemnation from different quarters after a Twitter user shared the video and it started getting shared.
At a press meet later in the day, Sreenivasan sought to offer clarification.
“The officials asked me to visit a temple suddenly. I was all surrounded by officials. There were two boys playing nearby. I asked one of them to help me unbuckle the sandals and he did. We worshipped and came back.”
He added, “What happened there was reported in the media in a twisted manner. There was no intention to hurt anyone. This incident involved a boy who is like my grandchild. I convey my regret if someone is hurt by this.”
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Flak for Sreenivasan
One of the boys involved in the incident, a Class IX student, meanwhile lodged a complaint at Masinagudi police station demanding action against the minister under the SC-ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
Sources said the boy was accompanied by people representing the Nilgiri Tribal Welfare Society at the police station.
DMK president M.K. Stalin was quick to comment on the controversy. Speaking to the media, he said, “Not just him, many ministers under Edappadi Palanisamy are like this. They have been violating the oath that they took, and the latest is Dindigul Srinivasan.”
NTK leader Seeman said, “I was very angry seeing it. If the boy with self-dignity had beaten the minister with the footwear, I would have been happy.”
DMK MP Dr Senthilkumar in a tweet demanded that the minister puts the slipper on the feet of the tribal boy.
Actor Prasanna called the incident “nauseating” in a tweet.
ADMK mouthpiece justifies act
On Friday, AIADMK mouthpiece Namadhuamma in its editorial accused the media of presenting “twisted” reports for TRP. It also mentioned instances when DMK leaders’ aides did similar acts. The article carried an old photograph of a man bringing slippers for Stalin to wear.
“…many times elders in our houses ask to bring their footwear”, the editorial justified the incident. “Should we assume that it is also to humiliate the kids?”
This is, however, not the first time that Sreenivasan had someone at his feet to take care of his footwear. In 2018, at a blood donation camp organised by the Tamilnadu police department, an officer who was his aide was seen helping him wear his shoes.
Who is Dindigul Sreenivasan?
ADMK leader Sreenivasan, who is from Dindigul, was elected to Parliament for the first time in 1989, and re-elected in 1991, 1998 and 1999.
Sreenivasan was part of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet in the 12th Lok sabha, when he replaced Sedapatti Muthiah as the Union minister for surface transport.
He was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 2016 from Dindigul, and appointed as the forest minister by former chief minister Jayalalithaa.
The high-profile leader is known for making controversial remarks.
In February 2019, Sreenivasan scolded a tahasildar during a public meeting in Natham as he caught the latter talking on the mobile when the event was on.
A few months ago, he hit the headlines for making a comment on unemployment that did not go down well with the people. “Only because the people are overqualified, they do not get jobs,” he said in Chettinayakanpatti.
Sreenivasan was also mocked for his election campaign speech when he asked people to vote for ‘apple’ symbol instead of ally PMK’s ‘mango’.
In another instance, he mentioned ‘Manmohan Singh’ as prime minister, though he immediately corrected himself.
Immediately after Jayalaithaa’s death, he had asked people to forgive him for their “lies” on the leader’s health conditions. He had said, “We told lies that Jayalalithaa had idlis, and people met her. The truth is nobody saw her.”
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