Kattupalli: ‘Stalin, Step in & Set Things Rights’ Say, TM Krishna, Prabhat Patnaik, Others
Image credit: K. Saravanan
Fifteen signatories, including musician TM Krishna, economist Prabhat Patnaik, activist Medha Patkar and others, have written to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin seeking his direct intervention against the betrayal of fishing families in Kattupalli.
In 2009, 140 families from the Kattupalli fishing settlement in north Chennai were evicted from their village and fishing grounds for establishing the L&T-TIDCO Shipbuilding yard-cum-port. Thirteen years have passed since the eviction, but the people have still not received their due compensation.
An agreement was signed between L&T-TIDCO, the district collector and the people of Kattupalli which guarantees permanent jobs to a member of every evicted family. This was promised to be implemented from the date of commencing the shipyard, which was in 2012.
The letter sent to the CM read "It is not too late for the state leadership to step in and repair the situation by helping Kattupalli fishers enjoy the benefits of the assurances that formed the basis of their eviction."
Operationalising a tripartite agreement, the Thiruvallur district Collector issued a proceeding dated August 26, 2009, guaranteeing permanent jobs to persons from ousted families from the date of commissioning the shipyard.
The fishers have lived up to their end of the deal by vacating their homelands and yielding their fishing grounds. But to date, L&T Shipbuilding Limited (LTSB) has not created a single permanent job for the natives.
In the last 13 years, LTSB has sought more time through two successive three-year agreements in 2014 and 2017. Each of the agreements guaranteed the family permanent employment to a member by the end of the term.
But, LTSB has now declared that they will not offer permanent status or the benefits of permanency to any worker.
“This makes a mockery of the Government’s assurance and the tripartite agreement” read the submitted memorandum.
The fishing families are on an indefinite strike without any income since February 7, 2022, demanding the government intervene and ensure the guarantee of permanent jobs is kept.
Kattupalli fisherfolk had initially protested the usurping of their land, evictions from their homeland and losing their livelihoods for establishing a private shipyard. They conceded only after the promise of permanent jobs was made to them.
The fisherfolk were soon moved out of their homes to the newly built houses more than 2 km from the sea within a week after the tripartite proceedings were signed.
“Separated from their beaches, the participation of women in the fishing economy ended as they lost access to beach-landed fish and occupations such as shell-gathering” read the submitted memorandum.
Further, in 2019, an expansion project was proposed for the Kattupalli port. It faced stiff opposition from the fishing community, residents and environmental activists. The coordination committee of the villages protesting against the expansion of the port claimed that permission was granted based on an incomplete report.
The evicted families and activists have demanded the government fix a time frame to enforce the operational directives with retrospective effect from 2009.
Moreover, the environmental clearance given to LTSB requires the facilities to monitor the shoreline and mitigate erosion. The Chennai Solidarity Group observed that the northern shoreline is neither monitored nor ensured nourishment, so the beach has eroded significantly.
MORE EVICTIONS UNDERWAY
The Tamil Nadu government is at present acquiring land for its 10 proposed SIPCOT industrial campuses, which were passed in the 2021 budget session.
The solidarity group said, "This throws into question the assurances made by the government while acquiring land for industries – as is ongoing in Paliyapattu, Thiruvannamalai -- or evicting people for urban projects as happened in Mylapore recently."
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