Government gives pension to folk artiste forced to sell palm fruit

P. Gurusamy Thevar, an udukkai artiste, began selling palm fruit as the COVID-19 pandemic had hit his livelihood; the Thoothukudi administration has now sanctioned him with an old age pension

A photograph of P. Gurusamy Thevar, an udukkai artiste of a villupattu troupe, selling palm fruit (nongu) caught the attention of authorities after it was circulated on social media, and the Thoothukudi district collector K. Senthil Raj has sanctioned ₹1,000 per month to him under the old age pension scheme.

“We have also sent a proposal, recommending a monthly pension of ₹3,000 under the Nalintha Kalaignar Scheme (scheme for poor artistes),” said Mr. Senthil Raj who has also issued Mr. Gurussamy with an MGNREGA job card.

Industries Minister Thangam Thennarasu, who also holds the portfolios of Tamil Official Language and Tamil Culture and Archaeology, also chipped in to offer help. Mr. Thennarasu said he also saw the picture on social media and had directed officials of his department to sanction the pension under the scheme for poor artistes.

The 84-year-old artiste said he had been playing the udukkai, a small drum, for the last 45 years. But the pandemic caused by COVID-19 had affected the livelihood of folk artistes like him over the last two years. He is a native of Melakaranthai village in Ettayapuram taluk.

“All the temple festivals (kodai) in southern districts have been cancelled and we are forced to eke out a livelihood through other means. I started selling palm fruits,” he said. But he had to give up that also as he was not able to ride his bicycle, which he used to vend the fruit. “My legs are weak and not cooperating and so I had to stop selling the fruit. I have been trying to get the old age pension and I am so happy that it has become a reality now,” he said.

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