As the Madras High Court quashed the land acquisition proceedings for the proposed Salem-Chennai eight-lane expressway, farmers who protested against the project are heaving a sigh of relief. The proposed project was all set to acquire 1,900 hectares along the districts of Chennai, Kanchipuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, and Salem. However, the project, which raised eyebrows for its sudden proposal and prompt approval, met with many protests by farmers living along the proposed route.
Speaking to TNM, Chandrakumar, a farmer who coordinated with other farmers who were at risk of losing their prime agricultural lands, says the news comes as a relief. â€śI had not eaten all of last night in anticipation of the judgement. This is definitely good news. We can breathe easy now. This was a fight not just for the protection of our lands but also for our future generations. We have shown that if we fight bravely, we can win our rights.â€ť
On concerns regarding the Tamil Nadu government and the National Highway Authority of India opting for an appeal, Chandrakumar says that the farmers would soon be filing a caveat in the Supreme Court. â€śWe have also spoken to PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss. He has said that he would also file a caveat in the Supreme Court.â€ť
The Madras High Courtâ€™s verdict was on a bunch of petitions filed by farmers and the PMK, which is now in the AIADMK-led alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. PMK was among the first parties to protest land acquisition for the Rs 10,000 crore project.
Meanwhile, Aiyandurai, leader of the All India Farmers Mahasabai, points out that while the high court verdict gives hope, political parties in the state are reluctant to call out the systematic capitalist looting of the country. â€śIndustrial policy is introduced and discussed in the Lok Sabha and the state assembly. But the lawmakers sitting there have failed to secure our rights so it fell to the court. But even in issues such as Neutrino and Sterlite, we saw different courts say different things. The Madras High Court verdict makes reference to the Environmental Impact Assessment. If the EIA had been duly conducted, maybe the court would have said it is okay to take our lands.â€ť he says.