Tamil Nadu CM Claims Farmers Ready to Give up Land for Expressway
Farmers, however, allege that the compensation being offered to them is an eyewash.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami said that out of a hundred farmers, only four or five of them have not consented to give their lands for the Chennai-Salem expressway, while suggesting that most are in agreement.
Speaking to reporters at the Salem Airport on Sunday, 24 June, he said, "In Salem district we have measured and laid stones for 30 kms and only 6 kms is pending. For every 100 farmers in that distance, only four or five are not cooperative about giving their lands for the highway.”
However, this is in stark contrast to the ground reality as reported earlier. A family of four had earlier tried to self-immolate when the authorities came to measure their land for the highway.
Speaking to TNM, Sivagami, a farmer from the Ramalingapuram village said, “One acre itself is Rs 8 lakh. Only for 15 and 20-year-old trees they are saying they will give Rs 18,000. This is an eyewash. As it is, we have been affected by the previous four-laning on the existing route. We were fooled for that. First, they said they will give Rs 8 lakhs, then they said they will give the balance amount. We had to run from pillar to post for that. The four-lane itself is not complete. There are many places where it is only a two-lane. They have enough land to extend the existing route. All of Ramalingapuram is getting destroyed. Newly built houses, schools are getting destroyed. Every year, the school students are scoring 100 percent pass percentage. Have they said where this school will be shifted? The temple is being destroyed.”
Sivagami’s friend, Jamuna, also fears that she would fall into a debt trap.
She said, “My 1,200 sq ft house is the only place where we can live. My husband worked as a lorry driver. He met with an accident and cannot walk now. Both my children go to college. I have to feed four mouths with my income as a daily wage labourer. We have a Rs 6 lakh loan for the lorry. How can I pay their fees with the money they are giving? I have to take a loan every semester for that as well. For the cost of living today, none of this is enough. Moreover, who will marry my daughter if we don’t even have a house? As it is, I am taking care of my husband’s health, my children’s education. Now I have to fear for the roof over my head as well.”
Chandrakumar, a farmer, along with his family attempted to immolate themselves when their demands fell on deaf ears on Wednesday.
Speaking to TNM, he said, “We can’t live with their compensation. Every tree, every soil has all our life and hard work in it. Compensation is not going to save our lives. What they are doing is autocratic and unjust. My one acre of land is worth Rs 50 lakhs today but for one hectare they have announced Rs 21 lakhs. For generations, we have fostered these forests. When they come at 5 am to put markers and don’t even tell us what they are doing, I thought what is the point of living anymore? That’s why I took that decision. They are putting cases on us for talking about our land. If they honestly can show us how this benefits the people, we will give up and go away. But this is unnecessary. Their own report says so.”
Agreeing with him, Aiyadurai who also stands to lose three acres of his land, said, “Those who gave up their lands for the Salem steel plant and NH69 are still waiting in line at the court to get their compensation. They are demanding our livelihood for the benefit of corporates.”
With a slew of arrests against those who have spoken up against the project, Sivagami too alleges that voices of dissent have been suppressed.
“Ask the tahsildar and Revenue Divisional Officer to come and talk to us. Ask the Collector to come to the people and tell us. How can we believe them? This is not for the people. If it is for the people, we will give way for it. What is the need to do it so quickly? If it is for the people, they can explain to us. Last month, they said we could raise objections. But by the time we submitted our objections, they have laid markers. There is so much police protection and buses to take us away if we open our mouths,” Sivagami remarked angrily.
Commenting on arrests of the people who are speaking against the project, the CM said, "We are arresting people who do unlawful activities, in order to maintain law and order."
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute)
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