Government planning to set up paper board unit at a cost of Rs. 1200 crore

Farmers of Mondipatti panchayat in Srirangam, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s constituency, are up in arms over the move to acquire their land for the setting up of a paper board unit.

The farmers argued that the land identified for the State-owned project had been under cultivation for three generations, and the livelihood of at least 2,000 families would be affected if the government went ahead with the acquisition proposal.

The Rs. 1,200-crore multi-layer double-coated board manufacturing unit is to be set up at Mondipatti village and the surrounding dry areas by Tamil Nadu News Print and Papers Ltd (TNPL). The village is in Manaparai taluk on the Kulithalai-Manapparai National Highway.

Ms. Jayalalithaa had announced the project in the Assembly recently. Work on the unit, which will have a capacity of two lakh tonnes per annum, will begin this year. Two thousand people will get direct and indirect employment through the industry.

Addressing a joint press conference here on Sunday, M.P. Chinnadurai, district president of the Tamilaga Vivasayigal Sangham, G.K.Murali, president of the Congress Kisan Wing, and R. Pappathi, former president of the Mondipatti panchayat, alleged that though more than 2,000 acres of “unusable land” was available in Srirangam, officials had chosen for acquisition the land that had been cultivated for three generations.

“By acquiring 950 acres in Mondipatti, Poduvarpatti, Kottapatti, Vadugapatti and Poongudipatti, 300 acres of paddy, 250 acres of sugarcane, apart from 300 acres of other crops and 10,000 coconut trees and mango trees and 175 bedrock wells and a number of bore wells would be lost. It would affect the livelihood of at least 2,000 families.”

They alleged it was a “conspiracy” by officials to help “real estate sharks” who had purchased lands in the vicinity of the proposed area for the paper board unit. “We are certain that the Chief Minister, who supports the farming community in its fight against the laying of pipelines by GAIL and has declared that she will not allow any agricultural land to be affected, is not even aware that the planned acquisition will affect fertile land. There is no public hearing or notification for the land acquisition. We came to know of the plan only a few days ahead of the announcement in the Assembly and officials are trying to persuade us to sign on dotted lines.”

They are planning an agitation in front of the Manapparai Taluk office on Tuesday. Though the land acquisition notification was yet to be issued, survey of the villages had been going on for the past few months.

District officials remained tight-lipped about the project and the land acquisition process.

A senior district officer, on condition of anonymity, maintained that a major portion of the land to be acquired for the factory was dry land and cultivation was being done on only about 45 to 50 acres using well irrigation.

As far as possible, cultivable lands had been kept out. However, some cultivable lands had to be included as they were contiguous with the project site, the officer said and added that they were still willing to exclude cultivable lands if they were not contiguous with the site.

The project, the officer said, would bring about much needed industrialisation of the backward Manapparai belt, from where hundreds of people were commuting to Tiruchi in search of work everyday.

“The factory will be a boon to the area. Apart from land compensation, a member from each family that gives land for the project will get employment in the factory,” the officer said and claimed a majority of the villagers were happy over the prospect.