Tempers flared at the Collectorate on Tuesday as farmers opposed the acquisition of land for the proposed SIPCOT industrial estate at Sivarakottai near Tirumangalam in the district.

Farmers from Sami Mallampatti, Sivarakottai and Karisalkalanpatti were participating in a public hearing organised by the district administration.

Collector Anshul Mishra said industries had to be established to provide jobs to unemployed youth on a massive scale. But he emphasised that agriculture was equally important.

The Collector said officials had identified dry lands in Sivarakottai and its peripheries. He listed the guideline prices per acre fixed by the Registration Department records for different survey numbers in nearby villages and the market value per acre. Mr. Mishra pointed out that prior to 2008-09 many farmers had not been cultivating the lands regularly. This prompted slogans by farmers who demanded the withdrawal of the land acquisition drive. “Please don’t destroy our lands which have been under cultivation from time immemorial. The records are false. The forcible takeover of the lands will deprive our children of the opportunity to own farm lands and even our survival may become a question mark,” Parameswaran from Sivarakottai appealed to the Collector.

Amidst heated arguments, a group of farmers led by both factions of the Communist parties walked out condemning the government.

Meanwhile, a small section of farmers agreed to part with their lands only if the government compensated them at the prevailing market rate.

M. Jeeva of the Society for Integrated Rural Development (SIRD), which works for the development of villages in the area, pointed out that the farmers were opposed only to the takeover of green lands.

“Let the government acquire dry lands in the belt. The farmers will have no objection,” he said, and appealed to the Collector to stall the land acquisition. The claim that some farmers were ready to accept the compensation as per market value was not true as they were not farmers but individuals who owned house sites or plots in the belt, he added.

Farmers’ associations, supported by the Communists and NGOs working in the region, have been opposing the land acquisition process since 2007 when the then DMK government announced the establishment of a big industrial estate.

They said many top-level DMK functionaries had acquired lands in the region with an eye on making huge profits and they were bent upon handing their lands to SIPCOT. “We will never remain silent spectators to the destruction caused to agricultural lands,” they vowed.

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