The farmers of Munneerpallam village in Tirunelveli district were assured compensation for the land acquired for track doubling from Vanchi Maniyachi to Nagercoil by railway and revenue authorities on Tuesday. The struggle led by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) resulted in this assurance of compensation for the small and marginal farmers of the village.
An agreement was signed to this effect in the presence of the officer appointed for land acquisition by Indian railways, revenue and police officials.
Farmers Block Work
The farmers of the village, led by the AIKS, had blocked the ongoing preliminary work for the track doubling. The farmers allege that their farm lands were filled for the doubling works without any notice of land acquisition to the land owners.
B Raja Guru, district president of Tamil Nadu Vivasayikal Sangam affiliated to the AIKS, told NewsClick, "The farm lands of the poor and marginal farmers were filled with hard sand for the laying of railway tracks. The farmers here own land between half an acre and one acre, which is their lifeline. A one kilometre long and 33 feet wide stretch was filled, which resulted in a huge loss for the farmers.”
A farmer from the village said, “This village is home to fertile lands, as it is situated on the banks of the Tamirabarani river and once had good ground water levels. Most of us here own very small land and depend on the income from the land for our living. We are losing our fertile lands to development. We may get compensation, but nobody can compensate for our fertile lands.”
Assurance of Compensation
After the farmers led by AIKS blocked work in the stretch, the land acquisition officer, deputy tahshildar and police officials rushed to the spot and held talks. The farmers strongly protested against the unilateral move of acquiring their land for the track doubling works without their consent and non-payment of compensation.
Raja Guru added, "The procedure usually followed for land acquisition for government projects was not followed and hence, we decided to block the work. During the talks, the officials accepted that the farmers were not informed of any land acquisition and it was a mistake. Now, they have agreed to compensate the farmers for the land acquired with an interest of 12% from the day of commencement of work."
Memorandum to Collector Failed to evoke response
The track doubling work in the Madurai- Kanyakumari section of the railways is being carried out in two phases from Madurai to Vanchi Maniyachi and Vanchi Maniyachi to Nagercoil. The farmers had already submitted a memorandum to the district collector on August 26 about the issue.
“The collector during the meeting informed us that the work is being carried out only in the already existing railway land alone and no procedure has been initiated to use the farm lands of the farmers. The collector also informed about the procedure for land acquisition and payment of compensation has been just initiated,” Raja Guru said.
But much to the dismay of the farmers, the contractor continued to fill the farm land and proceeded with the work till the last weekend. This prompted the farmers to launch a struggle, which has now yielded the desired financial compensation – nonetheless, at the cost of losing their fertile lands.