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Protest Against Salem-Chennai Green Corridor Continues, NHAI Initiates Acquisition Processes

Shilpa Shaji |
Though the Government statistics say that only 6,400 trees will be cut for laying the road, a fact-finding team of the AIPF says that several lakhs of trees would be cut in the name of corridor project.
Protest Against Salem-Chennai Green Corridor

As the Tamil Nadu government has intensified the land acquisition processes for the proposed Salem-Chennai Green Corridor at the cost of the livelihood of the farmers, the magnitude of the struggle of the farmers and villagers have deepened. Raising the concerns over the livelihood of farmers and environmental issues, a Joint Action Committee against the Green Corridor - consisting of 28 organisations - has been protesting against the Rs 10,000 crore project.

Amidst the continuous protests, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has initiated an aerial survey of the land on Thursday, to mark the boundaries of the corridor.

“The corridor that passes through five districts in the state will take up 6,000 acres of farming land. Out of this total land, 3,000 acres come under Thiruvannamalai district,” said Shanmugam of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), one of the leading organisations in the Joint Action Committee, while talking to Newsclick.

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“The project mainly affects Thiruvannamalai district since 142 km of the total corridor passes through this district. While in Krishnagiri district, only one village is being affected by the corridor,” Shanmugam added.

The 277 km long Salem-Chennai Green Corridor, an ambitious project of the central and state governments, cuts across five districts in the state including Kancheepuram, Thiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Salem. The eight-lane project passes through almost 159 villages in the project affected districts threatening several hectors of agricultural land, hills and water bodies, health centres and human settlements among others.

“As the collective resistance continues, a serious of attacks by the state has taken place to repress the struggles of the people,” he added while talking about the AIADMK-led state government’s attempts to crack down on the protest.

Earlier, many villagers, including elderly women, were arrested by the police for creating an obstruction to the project. The Salem-based activist Piyush Manush, and 24-year-old college student Valarmathi, had also been arrested. They all were released later.

Again, on June 20, a public consultation, which was conducted to coordinate the farmers’ concerns on the proposed corridor at Thiruvannamalai, was disrupted by police. Ahead of the meeting that was called by AIKS, 25 farmers had been arrested along with Thiruvannamalai district

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President of Vivasayigal Sangam Venkatesh, one of the key members of the Joint Action Committee, and vice president Balaraman. Later they were released as the farmers marched to the Superintendent of Police office.

Though the Government statistics maintain that only 6,400 trees will be cut for laying the road, a fact-finding team of All India People’s Forum (AIPF) says that several lakhs of trees would be cut in the name of corridor project.

As per the 2015 Amendment to the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, under the section food security, it is the responsibility of the government to provide an equal amount of alternative land and funds for the land acquired so far for the project. The clause also contains that the acquisition of agricultural land should be of minimum proportion. However, various groups and activists have pointed out that in the acquisition proposal for the current project, most of the irrigated cultivable lands are classified as dry land instead of wetland.

“People are not willing to believe the compensation packages offered by the government based on the earlier experiences. They say that the compensation is not paid fairly even after acquiring lands for the four-way road, Salem Steel Plant, Neyveli Thermal power corporation and so on,” said AIPF report.

The AIPF team has proposed certain recommendations in its report that include: “People are completely rejecting the Salem-Chennai Greenway corridor road and hence this project should be dropped from implementation. People consider the relationship with the land flowing from various generations as their soul and culture and not just an economic entity. They totally reject the alternative packages and compensation offered. People say that losing the land is not just losing of agricultural land, it is like fishes being thrown out of the water and losing lives. They are apprehensive that they would become refugees in their own state and country. People allege that the loss estimated by the government does not reflect the real loss of the people and the government has declared wrong information while estimating the value of the acquisition.”

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“Government has not followed the legal procedures in announcing the land survey to the people and no meetings were held seeking public opinions are conducted. People say that this is leading to turmoil among people and law and order situation. The administration should consider this and take corrective steps. People expressed their annoyance that the land survey is forced on them without their permission and the revenue department has put the boundary stones in their fields with the police force.

People feel that just widening the existing roads such as Selem-Villupuram highways, Salem- Krishnagiri highways and Salem-Vaniyampadi highways will reduce the distance and travel time between Chennai and Salem. There is no need for a new road. The government should form an expert committee to explore alternative possibilities to Salem-Chennai GreenWay corridor road” they further added.

As Kanagarajan, an AIKS who is in the forefront of the Thoothukudi struggle, pointed out earlier, it is not an isolated struggle. It is the part of a larger struggle and the government had conducted a pilot repression in Thoothukudi to terrorise all the protesters, he had said.

“It seems that the government was conducting a pilot repression in Thoothukudi. They thought that by terrorizing the people in Thoothukudi, they can repress the struggles against Kathiramangalam chemical plant, Salem-Chennai green corridor and various protests in different parts of Tamil Nadu.”

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