PMK leader and Rajya Sabha member Anbumani Ramadoss has expressed elation over Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami’s announcement that the Cauvery delta region will be declared as a ‘Protected Special Agricultural Zone’ — a long-standing demand of his party. He says only agricultural and allied industries should be allowed to operate in the region. Excerpts:
The PMK has been demanding the declaration of the Cauvery delta region as a protected agricultural zone for a long time. How do you view the Chief Minister’s announcement?
We are very happy. The PMK was the first to raise the demand, and had even included it in its 2016 election manifesto. We have organised several protests and awareness programmes regarding the issue and, when we joined the AIADMK alliance in 2019, this (the ‘protected agricultural zone’ status) was our primary demand. Last year, I met Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami twice regarding the issue. My party leader and I had urged him to declare the delta region as a protected agricultural zone. We are happy that all parties, including [the DMK, led by] Opposition leader M.K. Stalin, had endorsed the demand.
What do you expect from the government now?
We want legislation to be enacted in the forthcoming Assembly session, mandating that only agricultural and allied industries should be permitted to operate in the delta region. Other industries, like those related to petrochemicals and hydrocarbons, which pollute the environment, should be barred. A dyeing industrial unit in Erode was relocated to Parangipettai in the delta region. Similarly, a petrochemical park was brought in by the [erstwhile] DMK government. We have urged the AIADMK not to repeat the DMK’s mistakes. The delta is one of the most fertile regions in the country, and we cannot afford to destroy it by drilling it for hydrocarbons. With climate change expected to cause severe food shortage, it is important to protect the region.
Wouldn’t the announcement impact existing industries, investments and jobs?
We want only non-polluting industries. The rest should be shut down. The eco-system, agriculture and the environment are more important than revenue or job generation. The Sterlite factory may well provide employment and foreign exchange. But if it is polluting the environment, we don’t want it. I don’t see any problem with the existing industries. But if they are polluting the environment, they should be shut down.
The PMK had opposed land acquisition for the Salem-Chennai expressway. What is your view on the acquisition of agricultural land for infrastructure development?
There are four highways connecting Chennai and Salem.
Why do we need a fifth? In fact, we are suggesting the creation of a 10-lane highway between Chennai and Kanniyakumari. This will involve agricultural land, but we want to make the farmers who part with their land stakeholders in the project, so that the profits are shared with them for the next 25 years. That way, they will get more value and will be happy to give their land without protest.
Now that the AIADMK and the PMK see eye-to-eye on some key issues, would this alliance continue? There have been reports that the PMK may tie up with actor Rajinikanth’s proposed party…
We have submitted 10 demands to the AIADMK government, and we hope they will take a positive decision on them. On the NEET issue and on the release of the seven convicts in former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination case, the State government is supporting us. On the issue of prohibition, we expect that more steps will be taken in due course. They are doing it, but it is taking some time.
With respect to [Gandhiya Makkal Iyakkam leader] Mr. Tamilaruvi Manian’s claims that were reported today, I can say this: “We are in the AIADMK alliance. Mr. Manian has no right to talk about an alliance…about us…about my party. We remain a part of the AIADMK alliance, and the only person who could take a decision [on the matter] is my leader.