For 2019 general elections, the ruling parties of the state and Centre are in alliance in Tamil Nadu. With only hours left for the voters to go to the polling booths, it is getting clearer that bundles of cash cannot help achieve victory.
One of the major issues that has led to many struggles is land acquisition by both the governments in the name of high-profile projects. May it be the Salem-Chennai expressway or the high voltage transmission line issue, thousands of farmers have come out on the streets to oppose these attempts.
Almost all the opposition parties and some in the newly formed All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-led (AIADMK-led) alliance have stood with the farmers and environmentalists, and have asked the government to revise their policies. But no changes have been made so far.
Salem- Chennai expressway
“The proposal to construct a new road between Salem and Chennai without taking in consideration the existing three roads is not about development. This is to destruct the Tamil Nadu agriculture system,” said Thulasi Narayanan, a leader of All India Kisan Sabha from Tamil Nadu.
A pet project of the Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami, the expressway is intended to cut short the travel time between Salem and Chennai by a couple of hours. The 277.3 km long, eight-lane highway will pass through Kanchipuram, Thiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem districts. This is an agrarian zone including reserve forest areas.
The Madras High Court had scrapped the feasibility study of this project, and had made sharp remarks on the intention of the project. The court also raised questions about vulnerable forest stretches near the proposed alignment, and barred any move to acquire land for the expressway.
But it seems like the Bharatiya Janata Party and AIADMK have decided to go ahead with the project, as Union Minister Nitin Gadkari in an election campaign has declared that the government will carry on with the project, with the consultation of farmers.
The farmers across these districts under various organisations have been protesting against the coercive land acquisition for a long time now.
Raigarh-Pugalur voltage transmission line
Just like the green corridor, the multi crore Raigarh-Pugalur high voltage direct current (HVDC) project also received backlash from the farmer community. Expected to become the longest electricity corridor in the country, the state government is adamant to implement the project.
The proposed alignment of the high-tension lines covers 13 districts in the state. The major concerns of the farmers include the use of small farm plots for the towers which would render them unproductive. The crops to grow in these areas are also restricted which would affect the livelihood of thousands of farmers.
Attempts by the officials to acquire the land have been met with severe opposition from the farming community. The government tried to silence the protesters by using police force. But this eventually led to the farmers’ organisations declaring their support for DMK-led alliance in 12 constituencies.
The farmers from 18 villages between Sirkazhi and Tharambakadi have been protesting against the land acquisition for the proposed GAIL pipeline project. The pipeline covers a distance of 29 kms. The protesting farmers alleged that about 30,000 acres of farmland will be affected by this project.
These are just a few of the major land acquisition issues that press the governments now. One of the major allegations against these projects is that, they destroy the culturally vibrant delta region of the state.
“This is a fascist mentality,” said Mr. Narayanan to Newsclick. “In Germany, when the fascist wanted to destroy their opponent’s infrastructure, they tried to eliminate their opponent’s race and culture. Now, BJP government is trying to destruct and destabilize the Tamil culture. That's why they are going to delta belt and introducing all these projects,” he added.
Mr. Narayanan made it clear without any doubt that, no farmer in the state is against any development. “All we ask them is to conduct public hearing and listen to our side of the issues. But they are not willing to follow any norms and regulations. Then who are they to enter our lands?”