Parandur airport row: Police detain activist as protest completes 200 days

Residents of Parandur and the other 12 villages earmarked for the proposed project staged their protest in Ambedkar ground in Eganapuram village.
Parandur airport row: Police detain activist as protest completes 200 days
Parandur airport row: Police detain activist as protest completes 200 days
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The 200th day of protest against the proposed second airport for Chennai in Parandur witnessed the detention of an environmental activist, heightened police presence and the protest chaired by a political leader from the DMK alliance on Saturday, February 11. Hours before the protests began, advocate Vetriselvan was detained by Kancheepuram police while he was on the way to the protest site from Chennai. He was detained at Sunguvar Chathiram and sent to the Maragal police station and later released on the afternoon of February 11. More than 10 checkposts were set up and nearly 1,200 police were deployed in Parandur. Around 1,500 people participated in the protest in Ambedkar ground at Eganapuram village.

Vetriselvan, who works with Poovulagin Nanbargal, an environmental organisation in Tamil Nadu, was invited to deliver an address at the protest site. Sundarrajan, a member of Poovulagin Nanbargal, condemned this detention and called it a failure of democracy. "It is a failure of democracy if governments think that they can repress protests of the people trying to protect their livelihoods," he said. T Velmurugan, MLA of Panruti and founder of Thamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi, condemned the detention of Vetriselvan and called it "anti-democratic.” TTV Dhinakaran, founding general secretary of Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam, said that democratically supporting the farmers' protest was not illegal and demanded the release of Vetriselvan.     

Speaking at the protest site, Velmurugan, highlighted instances when the government acquired land from the people but failed to keep the promises to those who lost their land. “In 1952, during the Kamarajar period, nearly 25,000 acres of land were acquired by the government for Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC). They promised government jobs to everyone and higher salaries to those who gave up their land. But till now, NLC has offered jobs to only 1,800 members from the locality. Around 13,000 people have been contract workers for the last 35 years, and many of them died," he added. Recently, the company hired nearly 300 executive engineers, but they were unconnected to the people who gave their land and houses to the NLC plant, he added. 

People of Parandur and surrounding areas have opposed the project from the time it was announced, despite attempts by the DMK government to pacify them. The project is presently open to bids from the consultants for the Techno-Economical report

"The airport project in Hosur was dropped because there is a rule that doesn't allow the construction of a new airport within a radius of 150 km of the already existing airport. Is it applicable to Karnataka only?" asked Elangovan, a resident of Eganapuram. “We want to apply the same policy here in Parandur because the proposed site in Parandur is just 72 km away from Chennai,” he further added. 

Protest against Parandur airport completes 200 days

Elangovan demanded the formation of a committee to look into a suitable site for the second airport for Chennai by appointing a retired judge of Madras High Court. Protesters cited practical difficulties in accepting the compensation offered by the government. One protester said that she was afraid of unemployment and social security if she was forced to move out of the village. "People are emotionally connected with the land and farming, so we are opposing the project," she said. Parandur residents refused to accept the compensation, which is 3.5 times the value of their property.

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