The farmers of Nangur village in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu woke up to a shocking scene this morning. The Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) has restarted its work of laying gas pipelines through their farm lands with massive police protection. The works were temporarily suspended earlier this month due to agitation by the farmers. A few days back, the farmers and villagers had boycotted the conciliation meeting announced by the Tahsildar fearing intimidation.
The delta region has witnessed lot of agitation in the recent years against forceful land acquisition for oil and gas extraction by different central Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs).
Farmlands Acquired for Laying Gas Pipelines
The 29 km long stretch between Tharangampadi and Madhanam in Sirkazhi taluk of Nagapattinam district faces severe threat of mass farmland destruction. The project faced stiff opposition from villagers and farmers while being launched early last year. Around 45 hectares of land from 17 villages in the area was acquired after the information was posted in the Village Administrative Offices. The farmers accused that they were kept in the dark about any surveys regarding the acquisition of their farmlands and vowed to protect their fertile lands.
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The gas pipelines are laid at a depth of more than 5.5 feet and are around 3 feet wide. Even though the volume sounds small the area acquired runs through the farmlands and any damages and leakages to the pipelines will result in severe loss to the farmers.
The farmers also accused that the presence of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) plants has already affected nearly 10,000 acres of farmlands. The ONGC is extracting oil from several villages in the region. Since the plants are in the middle of farmlands, the farmers are unable to carry out agricultural work.
Cases Filed Against Protesting Farmers
Eleven farmers who were protesting against them have been charged with cases by the Tamil Nadu police. The cases were filed against two office bearers of the Nilam Neer Pathukapu Iyakkam (Land, Water Protection Movement) and the agitating farmers.
The farmers complained that they are not even permitted to carry out their democratic right of protesting against issues affecting their livelihood. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) led state government has been playing in to the hands of the union government by accepting all the projects.
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Farmers Organisations Plan Agitation Programmes
S Durai Raj, Nagapattinam District Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) said, “The state and central governments have literally destroyed the ‘Rice Bowl’ of Tamil Nadu. Farmers are reeling under severe stress with high debts and low income while the governments are not at all concerned about the needs of the farmers.”
“We have pledged our support to the agitating farmers. All the farmers organisations have decided to conduct an all party meeting on May 2 to decide the future course of action,” he added.
The Modi-led Bharatiya Janatha Party government continues to haunt the farming sector with their anti-farmer policies resulting in large scale destruction of the sector. It needs to be kept in mind that the Prime minister had promised to double the income of farmers in his election speeches in 2014, but he continues to put the farmers under stress.
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