Farmers steadfast to stop execution of GAIL project

Updated - July 26, 2016 05:38 am IST

Published - July 26, 2016 12:00 am IST - ERODE:

The Central Government’s reluctance to consider an alternative route for the proposed Kuttanad-Kochi-Mangalore GAIL gas pipeline project has angered the farming community in the Western region.

But, they are steadfast in their resolve to physically stop execution of the project. The company will never be able to proceed with the project in rural parts where farmers will, by all means, be mobilised in large numbers to prevent the project from taking off, representatives of prominent farmers’ associations said.

The Central Government will be forced to ultimately prevail upon GAIL to consider Tamil Nadu’s suggestion for forming the pipeline alignment along National Highways, K.V. Ponnaiyan, president of Tamil Nadu Swadeshi Farmers’ Association, said.

Tamil Nadu had made it clear to the Centre that the 310 km pipeline was not welcome in the State, explaining the proposed alignment criss-crossing farm lands would cause irrecoverable damage to the agricultural property of several thousand farmers in the districts of Coimbatore, Tirupur, Salem, Erode, Namakkal, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri. All along the length, farmers will be required to cede land to a width of 20 metres

During February, the Supreme Court quashed a Tamil Nadu government notification that restrained gas Gail India Ltd from laying pipelines criss-crossing farm lands across the seven districts as part of the Kochi-Mangalore natural gas pipeline project.

While the government had asked GAIL to lay the pipeline along the national highways, the Supreme Court did not permit interference by Tamil Nadu in the contract between the company and the Central Government, but allowed the State to determine modalities of compensation to farmers. Enhanced compensation of 30 per cent was permitted in the place of the statutory compensation of 10 per cent of market value of the project.

But, farmers have been emphasising that the issue was not about compensation and that their demand has all along been for withdrawal of The Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User Inland) Act, 1962, which, they complain, permits forcible acquisition of land for laying pipelines for transport of petroleum and minerals. Recent amendments to the Act have made farmers culpable for damage to the pipeline even if it had been caused without their knowledge.

Lives of farmers at stake

Going ahead with the proposal of laying the natural gas pipelines across seven districts of the state would badly hit the farmers directly, various famers’ association in Salem said.

S.P. Thangavelu, Salem district secretary of the Tamil Nadu Vivasayigal Sangam affiliated to the CPI (M), said that the pipeline traverses through 29 villages in Salem district and 13 villages in Namakkal district.

In Salem district, 70 km. of the pipeline passes through the fields in Sankagiri and Omalur taluks, where agriculture is the major activity, he said.

The lives of farmers will be at stake if the government permitted the company to lay the pipeline. The farmers associations of Namakkal district have demanded the state government to bring in a new law to protect the farming community so that the pipelines are not laid through farm lands.

Farmer-friendly amendments

P. Mohan, a lawyer-cum-farmer and also the district president of Tamil Nadu Vyavasaigal Sangam, feels that unless the Government makes necessary farmer-friendly amendments in the Petroleum and Minerals Pipelines (Acquisition of Right of User in Land) Act, the issue of laying pipelines through farm lands could not be challenged legally.

“Any number of petitions will only get dismissed if the law is not changed. So amendments need to be introduced to prevent laying of gas pipelines through any farm land at the earliest”, he pointed out.

S. R. Madhusoothanan, coordinator of Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Livelihood Protection Committee, said that if at all there was any circumstance arisen to lay gas pipelines through farm lands, it should be ensured that farmers’ livelihood opportunities were not affected and they were compensated adequately.

(With inputs from Salem and Tirupur)

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