From teacher to Speaker of Assembly: Appavu’s journey

He is the fourth Speaker to hail from Tirunelveli

TIRUNELVELI

Tirunelveli district has given the fourth Speaker to the Tamil Nadu Assembly as Radhapuram MLA M. Appavu, 69, assumed office on Wednesday.

After Chellapandian (1962–1967), P.H. Pandian (1985–1989) and R. Avudaiyappan (2006–2011), Mr. Appavu from the district has been handpicked for the coveted post.

After serving in Sacred Heart High School, Kavalkinaru (now a higher secondary school), as mathematics and English teacher, Mr. Appavu voluntarily retired from teaching service in 1995 to take the political plunge in 1996 when he was elected MLA of Radhapuram Assembly segment as the candidate of G.K. Moopanar-led Tamil Maanila Congress.

And, his political journey continued as MLA of the same segment as he performed a hat-trick by getting elected in 2001 and 2006 also.

During his tenure as MLA between 2001 and 2006, Mr. Appavu’s aggressive approach put an end to sand mining in Nambiyar riverbed. When the sandmining badly damaged the check dam across the river at Mayilapudur near Valliyoor, Mr. Appavu visited the spot on November 22, 2006, and ensured reconstruction of the structure quickly.

He also ensured revamping of the Hanumanadhi, originating from the Western Ghats beyond Panagudi, by repairing the damaged check dam at Sothuparai, situated deep inside the jungles.

Mr. Appavu’s sustained campaign for linking Tamirabharani–Karumaeniyar–Nambiyar rivers by digging 73-km-long flood carrier channel from Vellankuzhi near Cheranmahadevi in Tirunelveli district to M.L. Theri near Sattankulam in Thoothukudi district was approved by the then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

When this river-linking scheme, for which the foundation stone was laid by Karunanidhi in 2007 to take 13,758 mcft surplus water of the Tamirabharani to dry regions, was shelved following change of government after 2011, Mr. Appavu, after obtaining much-needed information through the Right to Information Act, approached the High Court seeking a direction to the State government to complete the project as planned for the benefit of the farmers of Nanguneri, Thisaiyanvilai and Sattankulam.

The then AIADMK government was forced by the court rap to resume the third and the fourth phases of the work, which fetched him the title ‘Nathineer Inaippu Nayagan’ (Hero of River-Linking Project) by the people.

Though the indefinite legal battle over the 2016 election outcome in the Supreme Court agonised him a lot, Mr. Appavu, after the winning the 2021 election on May 2 last, said: “I’m very much relieved as the Almighty has rendered justice to me… Now, I’m waiting for the SC verdict on the declaration of the result of recounting of votes polled in the Assembly election held in 2016.”

The teachers who worked with him describe him a down-to-earth personality. “He would visit us suddenly whenever time permits, enjoy a cup of tea with us and recalls his tenure as teacher,” says A. Dhanaraj of Kavalkinaru, a mathematics teacher.

While Mr. Appavu’s eldest son Alex is a Chennai-based entrepreneur, younger son Rahul and daughter Priyanka are doctors and wife Vijaya is a homemaker.

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