The farmers of Tiruvannamalai and Salem districts in Tamil Nadu staged a protest on June 27 demanding the return of land acquired for the Chennai–Salem Green corridor project. The farmers in large numbers submitted their demands at the district collector’s office to immediately register the acquired lands back in the name of farmers as the Madras High Court had quashed the project citing severe irregularities. The Supreme Court had also upheld the quashing of the project.
The demonstration was organised by the ‘Organisation Against Green Corridor Project’, an umbrella organisation of various farmers’ organisations.
The demand comes at a time when the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Edappadi K Palaniswami has repeatedly said that the project would be completed with the support of the farmers. However, the farmers have continued to raise their opposition whenever the CM or other political leaders of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) or the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have spoken about the implementation of the project.
Also read: No Stay on Madras HC Order Quashing Green Corridor Project: Supreme Court
The Madras High Court had not only quashed the project on April 8, but also ordered the state government to submit the list of farmers from whom the lands were acquired within two weeks and to return the acquired land back to the farmers within eight weeks. But the government has not initiated any steps to return back the lands so far.
P Dilli Babu, former Member of Legislative Assembly and state president of Tamil Nadu Tribals’ Association (TNTA) affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha told NewsClick, “The government remains inactive even after the court has ordered the government to return back the land to the farmers from whom the lands were acquired. The 8 weeks time granted by the Madras High Court is over and the government is still keen on implementing the project by hook or crook. What is more painful is the way the CM and the government has handled the issue. During the election campaign, he promised that the government will not implement any projects affecting the farmers. But once the elections were over, he started to speak about implementing the project. This is unacceptable and the project, if implemented, will have a severe impact on the environment.”
He further added, “The land acquisition was done without obtaining environmental clearance. This is a violation of rules by the government itself. The National Highway of India (NHAI) went on to appeal against the order of the Madras High Court order. The farmers’ associations are planning to file a case against the state government for contempt of court if the lands are not returned immediately.”
Farmers have been protesting against the 277 km long eight-lane road which is aimed at reducing the travel time between Chennai and Salem. The project was supposed to affect thousands of acres of land including reserve forest areas and needed lakhs of trees to be cut down. The farmers belonging to five districts through which the road was planned, have organised several protests against the damage to environment and the farming sector.
Also read: BJP Proposes to Implement Chennai-Salem Green Corridor Amidst Widespread Protests
In an election campaign meeting Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had announced that the project will be implemented in the presence of the Chief Minister and the leader of Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Dr Anbumani Ramadoss. It has to be noted that the PMK was one among the petitioners against the implementation of the project in the Madras High Court.