The farmers of Western districts of Tamil Nadu conducted a massive road blockade against the installation of high-tension electric lines through farm lands on Monday. The struggle was led by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) opposing the project being implemented by the Power Grid Corporation of India and the state electricity generation and distribution corporation.
The farmers demanded scrapping of the project and also insisted that the state government withdraw cases filed against the farmers for protesting against the project.
The struggle was carried out in 24 different centres—in Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Erode, Namakkal, Salem, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Karur, Vellore, Tiruvannamalai and Vizhuppuram district. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) had extended support to the struggle of the farmers.
The government has resorted to framing charges against the leaders and the farmers for participating in the struggles to protect their lands from becoming inaccessible. The farmers of the Western districts of the state have been victims of land acquisition for different projects including the green corridor road between Chennai and Salem—which has been set aside by the High Court of Madras.
The general secretary of AIKS Tamil Nadu state committee, P Shanmugam, said, “The Electricity Act, 2003 mandates payment of rent to the farmers for the usage of land for the high-tension electric line project. But the state government has refused to implement the regulation, forcing the farmers to take up the path of struggles to protect their land.”
The farmers have expressed apprehension over the impact of electric radiations on the crops and their cattle. The health issues of the farmers working in the area under the influence of the high-tension lines are also a concern. The organisations also accused the government of implementing the high-tension electric line project although other techniques for carrying electricity up to 1100 kilo watt through cables are available. The government has not issued any clarification on this issue so far.
The government of Tamil Nadu has moved further to invoke the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 to acquire land for the project. The AIKS condemned the decision of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government of citing the pre-independence act, which was used to snatch away the land of the farmers. “The Telegram is now a non-existent technology, but the government implemented the Telegraph Act to take away the fertile land for implementing a project, which could have been implemented in other ways too,” Shanmugam added. The AIKS, as a mark of protest against the project, had burnt a copy of the Indian Telegraph Act in October.
The farming sector has been being continuously neglected by both the central and state governments and suffers increasing input costs and reduced income. The land under cultivation has also been continuously shrinking, as many of the small and marginal farmers have become agricultural labourers with the next generation switching to other jobs.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), during the run-up to the general election of 2014, had promised innumerable measures for the agricultural sector, while the chief minister himself claims to have been a farmer. Despite this, farmers and the agriculture sector continue to suffer.
Also read: Farmers Protest Against Delay in Return of Land Acquired for Chennai- Salem Green Corridor