Protests grow strong against land acquisition for eight-lane highway

Chennai / Tiruvannamalai: At a time when the Madras High Court has reserved its order for the petitions against acquisition of 1,125 acres of land for the construction of the government’s ambitious 277.3 km long eight-lane highway connecting Salem and Chennai under the Centre’s ‘Bharatmala Pariyojana’ scheme, Ettu Vazhali Salai Ethiruppu Kootamaippu today organised a massive protest in front of Tiruvannamalai Collectorate Office against the acquisition process.

Moreover the organisation said it’s geared up to go even to Supreme Court for preserving the lands of the farmers. The Union ministry of Road Transport and Highways on 1, 2 and 3 December issued a fresh set of notifications to initiate land acquisition in Salem, Dharmapuri, Tiruvannamalai and Kancheepuram districts for the Rs 10,000-crore Chennai-Salem greenfield expressway project. The ministry issued the notifications citing National Highway Act, 1956, despite the High Court’s 15 September order not to proceed with acquisition by citing that Act.

Not only that, Additional Solicitor General, at that time, also made a submission that acquisition will not take place until a decision was taken on the realignment for the project.

Shortly after the December notifications were issued, fresh petitions were filed in the High Court to stop the acquisition process. The court directed Assistant Solicitor General to file an affidavit explaining the impact of the new notifications and received a response 14 December that there were minor changes in alignments. Then the court reserved it verdict.

Speaking to News Today, Ettu Vazhali Salai Ethiruppu Kootamaippu coordinator S Abiraman, said, “The State and Central governments are proceeding with the acquisitions despite the petition live at the court. This a pure contempt of court and the reason why we are here protesting at the Collectorate office. We are awaiting the order to come in our favour as it will save thousands of farmers from losing their lands and also many forests from getting destroyed. If the order goes the other way, we are also ready to challenge it in the Supreme Court.”

Earlier in June, the association, which comprises of 26 organisations and political parties under its wings, sent 10,000 letters with receipts to the Chief Minister, Governor and the District Collectorate Offices concerned to grab government’s attention stop the project. Also, at a time when the protests took a new dimension, the State government curtailed them with iron hand by arresting three key persons activist Piyush Manush, actor Mansoor Ali Khan, and student activist Valarmathi.

1,510 to lose lands in Kanchipuram district
Going by the notification concerning Kancheepuram district alone, land would be acquired from as many as 1,510 people, including government poramboke land, in 39 villages in Sriperumbudur, Chengalpet and Uthiramerur taluks in the district.


What are the new alignments?
As per the realignment draft submitted by the government, the required area of the lands has come down and has also avoided demolition of several houses in various villages. The alignment, which earlier passed through Theerthamalai reserve Forest, has been changed and now would be formed on the outskirts of the forest.


Not for Salem alone
Coming down heavily on the critics of the eight-lane Chennai-Salem super highway, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami last week pointed out that the ambitious project was aimed at linking several cities right down south to Kanyakumari and to Kochi (Kerala) in deep west.

S Ben Raja