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Kulpanthandalam: Where ex-Chinese PM opened a maternity centre

Chennai, Oct 4 (IANS) Even as Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to visit Mamallapuram, the Unesco Heritage site in Tamil Nadu this month, the first Premier of the Asian giant Zhou Enlai had visited Kulpanthandalam, a nearby village, way back in 1956 where he had opened a maternity and child welfare centre.

Kulpanthandalam was them known as a model village.

A picture taken several years ago shows a plaque, which is now lost, that states: “Maternity and Child Welfare Centre opened by His Excellency Mr. Chou En-Lai, Prime Minister of People’s Republic of China.”

“Unfortunately, while rebuilding the health centre recently, the old plaque was lost. People did not realise its historical importance,” V. Sthalasayanam hailing from Kulpanthandalam told IANS.

Kulpanthandalam even won the Nehru Prize for model villages in 1954.

During those days, a visit to this village, about 10 km from Mamallapuram, used to be part of several VIP’s itinerary.

Distinguished visitors apart from Zhou were American rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and Howard d’Egville, former Secretary General of Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

Several foreign tourists and others also used to visit the village which is now forgotten.

Kulpanthandalam built its enviable reputation then, on its pioneering projects under the Community Development Project introduced under the First Five Year Plan.

The village was the first to build low cost houses in the country using country tiles replacing thatched roofs.

While all the 300 houses were involved in Khadi spinning, Kulpanthandalam was also the first village to use the Japanese method of row planting for increased yield.

Another pioneering project in the village was the setting up of a cattle breeding and insemination centre.

The village had a maternity hospital, a community library and recreation centre with a radio.

All these pioneering works were the result of one man, G.Veeraraghavachari who was then the village Chairman, according to the then District Collector J.M. Lobo Prabhu’s notes in the village visitor’s book.

“I must record that under the Chairmanship of Sri Veeraraghavachari, the village has shown an amazing capacity to import new ideas. The community theatre, ‘new look’ houses, Japanese method of cultivation, development guides stand out in this village by their excellence,” Prabhu had said.

“I am hoping that this village will maintain its position as a model one. The President Sri Veeraraghavachari, has so far been working single handed. But apparently he is gaining the support of others in view of the results achieved.”

Recalls Sthalasayanam, one of the sons of Veeraraghavachari: “Father used to spend his money for community welfare. At the time of his death in 1965 all his 40 acres were sold or pledged and the family went into poverty.”

Later Kulpanthandalam declined and went into oblivion.

For a long time, the maternity block that was inaugurated by Chou Enlai stood as only visible proof of the village’s past glory. But even that has been lost now.

It is only the family of Veeraghavachari who have the pictures and the visitor’s book as the proof of Kulpanthandalam’s glorious years.

–IANS

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