Pushed into defending the controversial Chennai-Salem expressway, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami on Saturday declared it 'completely a scheme of the Central Government'. Addressing the media, even as protests against the project continue in the districts, the Chief Minister stated that role of the state government was merely to help acquire the land for the highway.
This is in contrast to his earlier claim that his government had fought for this project.
Earlier this month, the CM had declared that the 277.3 km long eight-lane greenfield project under the Centreâ€™s â€˜Bharatmala Pariyojanaâ€™ scheme, will stimulate growth in Tamil Nadu. He had said in the Assembly that the state government had fought for this project and claimed that only 41 acres of forest land would be acquired. He also added that of the 1,900 hectares of land being acquired, 400 hectares belong to the government. He assured that the project would take the form of a tunnel when it passes through forest areas.
So far, the state government has made multiple efforts to support the project and highlight its uses. This is the first time, however, that the Chief Minister has claimed that his government is merely facilitating the project.
"This is a central government scheme. This is a huge scheme for Tamil Nadu and we are facilitating it. This is completely a scheme of the Centre. Since it is coming to our state, the Tamil Nadu government is just helping them acquire land," said Edappadi Palaniswami.
In the past, the Chief Minister had compared the highway to the Mumbai-Pune and Delhi-Agra expressway projects in a detailed statement at the Assembly. The corridor essentially involves an eight-lane highway, connecting Chennai and Salem via Krishnagiri, Tiruvannamalai and Kancheepuram. But farmers, social activists, environmentalists and the opposition have expressed concern over the loss of agricultural land, homes and forests if the project were to be executed.
Dismissing the problems raised, the Chief Minister said, "When the Krishnagiri and Ulundurpettai highways were built, the number of vehicles in the state stood at 1.7 crore. Currently the number is 2.57 crore. It will take five years for the highway to come and we expect the number of vehicles to increase to 3.27 crore. This highway could stop accidents and save precious live."
He also added that it will aid the industrial growth in Salem, Coimbatore, Namakkal, Karur and Madurai.
Addressing the concern over compensation, he maintained, "Compensation will be as per guideline value. The Government will do everything to ensure that those losing land will get adequate compensation."