A fact finding team comprising of Mr. R. Vidyasagar, AIPF, Tamil Nadu, Mr. Chandra Mohan, All India Kisan Maha Sabha, Mr. Gana Kurinchi, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Mr. Arivazhagan, AIPF, Advocate Mr. Bhuvaneswaran, Poovulagin Nanbargal- Tamil Nadu-Pondicherry, Advocate Mr. Louis, Democratic Advocates Association, visited Thiruvannamalai, villages of Irulappatti, Erumaiyapatti, Pappampadi, in Pappireddypatty block of Dharmapuri district and villages of Adhigarampatti, Adimalaipudhur, Kuppanur, Poovanur in Salem district to understand the situation of people in relation to land acquisition by the government, for the greenway corridor road between Salem and Chennai, on 20th, 21st and 22nd of June 2018. The team met many people in the above villages who would be directly affected by the new road project.
We also contacted the DRO at Salem over phone to get their opinion about the implementation of the green corridor project. Due to his earlier commitments he is unable to discuss and he directed us to talk to Thasildar and Mr.Murugesan, PA to Thasildar was contacted. On his advice Mr. Mohan, Project director was also contacted.
Facts elicited by the Fact Finding team:
On June 20th 2018, the public consultation to listen the farmers views on the proposed greenway corridor road at Thiruvannamali town in a marriage hall was stopped by police. The district president and the secretary of the Vivasayigal Sanagam were arrested and then those farmers who came from Kalasappakkam near Polur and those farmers who came from Kancheepuram including the van driver were arrested. 25 farmers who came to express their opinion were arrested. The public consultation was conducted in the vivasayigal sangam office in Thiruvannamalai. After the meeting was over all those who assembled marched to the Superindentent of Police office demanding release of all the farmers arrested. Then only they were released.
>2. Dharmapuri and Salem
Farmers from many villages of the district decided to have a public consultation to elicit farmers’ views after they came to know through newspaper advertisements notifying that their lands would be surveyed. They organized a hall meeting on 24th June 2018, to record their dissent views
They have also acquired formal permission from police to conduct the meeting. While more than 800 farmers assembled to voice their concerns, suddenly the police has cancelled the permission to conduct the meeting. After much argument the meeting was conducted and it is said that the police pput a condition that no outsider should address the meeting other than those farmers whose lands are proposed to be acquired by the government.
People said that they were informed by the Revenue and Police to give their petitions directly to the district collector between 4th and 8th June 2018. Based on this on 4th June 2018, people hired different vehicles to go to the collector’s office to give their petitions. However, a big police force stopped them on their way. They also threatened the drivers of the vehicle and send them away. Many farmers and their families including old people and children walked for about 6 kms to reach the Collector’s office. After waiting for the whole day, the people were told by the Revenue department, that the government cannot accept a common petition from all and instead the people should individually petition. They insisted that people should come back on 6th of June 2018 and send them back without accepting their petition.
On 6th June, 2018, after a long wait the people were told that the District Collector is not available and they were asked to come back on 7th June 2018. When the farmers met the Collector on they were promised that the District Collector would visit the villages on 8th June, 2018.
After visiting a few villages and farmers, the district collector categorically told the farmers that she will try to recommend for maximum compensation for the farmers, but there is no chance of that the project would be dropped and went back. Later when the revenue officials came to the villages to survey the land without any prior notice or prior permission from the farmers, people questioned them about how they can enter their fields with boots.
The officials responded saying that all the land belongs to government and they don’t need any permission to enter the lands and no one can prevent them from doing so. They went on with measuring and putting boundary stones.
It is said that the people were also threatened by the officials that if someone remove the boundary stones or put black flags in their fields, they would be arrested under NSA and Goondas Act. It is also said that the police and intelligence visit the village almost every day and meet farmers individually in order to create a moral fear in their mind.
66 years old lady Unnamalai told us that, “I lost my husband 22 years back and single handedly I saved and developed this property. I am struggling in my life with 8 grand children who have attained the marriage age. My land is so fertile where I cultivate various crops with three bore wells and open well. But the government classified this land just as land fit for cultivating horse gram only. I was arrested and my land was surveyed. Land adjacent to my land is owned by an individual who is politically influential and his land is not surveyed.
Moreover, nearby private factories, college and quarries are bypassed and the road is proposed to be laid in a zig-zag way avoiding the lands of influential people. Bypass road is meant to be straight and should not be bending”. Various farmers narrated their tearful stories to the fact finding team.
Views of PA to Thasildar: he stated that “the district administration is keen to provide maximum compensation, job opportunities and linking the affected farmers with various other government schemes. We are advised to handle the people in a polite way. Compensation would be at least three times of the market value. We have issued patta three beneficiaries in Aachankottapatti yesterday as an alternative”. He also refered us to talk to the Project director of NHAI. Project of NHAI said that “the project is in the preliminary stage and we have estimated the cost to be Rs. 8500 crores tentatively.
According to Government statistics, only 6400 trees are to be cut for laying the road. But many farmers organizations, forcefully state, with evidence, that several lakhs of trees would be cut.
As per the 2015 Amendment to the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, under section food security, it is stated that it is the responsibility of the government to provide equal amount of alternative land and funds for the land acquired so for the project. It is also stated the acquisition of agricultural land should be of minimum proportion. It is alleged by the people that in the acquisition proposal for the current project, most of the irrigated cultivable lands are classified as dry land instead of wet land.
People are lamenting that while surveying the land for acquisition, politically influential persons, rich people and land belonging to big organizations are left out and the focus is more only on poor and helpless farmers. People also say that the officials are repeatedly discriminating against poorer sections and favoring rich people by not affecting them while acquiring land.
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 four way road, Salem Steel Plant, Neyveli Thermal power corportation and so on
Recommendations of the fact finding team:
People are completely rejecting the Salem-Chennai Green way 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 land is not just losing of agricultural land, it is like fish thrown out of 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 acquisition.
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 police force.
Those who resist this are removed from the place by force and let back after the stones are erected. This has created a panic situation and tremendous frustration among people. This kind of extra-legal activity should be immediately stopped by the administration.
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. Government should form an expert committee to explore alternative possibilities to Salem-Chennai Green Way corridor road.
The fact finding team want to point out that the government should not violate constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression, right to dignified life and right to pursue ones occupation, and right to express their grievances in a peaceful way and also express the injustices meted out to them.
All India People’s Forum (AIPF)