A cross-section of residents of Neduvasal village in Pudukottai district, which had witnessed massive protests against hydrocarbon exploration projects in 2017, erupted in joy on Sunday after Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami announced that the Cauvery delta region will be designated as a ‘protected agricultural zone’.
A section of farmers in the village, who had spearheaded the agitation, distributed sweets to the public in Keeramangalam. Some celebrated the announcement by bursting crackers.
“It is a victory for the Neduvasal protest. Right from the start, we have been demanding legislation to declare the delta region as a protected agricultural zone. It has now come true,” Neduvasal panchayat president K. Dakshinamurthy said.
A similar sense of elation pervaded villages right across the delta region, comprising Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Tiruvarur and parts of Tiruchi, Pudukottai, Karur and Ariyalur districts.
Hours after the announcement, Mannargudi S. Ranganathan, general secretary, Cauvery Delta Farmers’ Welfare Association, called the Chief Minister over the phone to convey his appreciation of the move. “It is a great, sweet news in 2020. It shows that the numerous protests against projects involving various forms of gas exploration have not gone waste. It (the ‘protected agricultural zone’ status) will rejuvenate and protect agriculture in the entire delta region,” Mr. Ranganathan told The Hindu .
He said the legislation promised by the Chief Minister should be enacted in the forthcoming Budget session of the Assembly. Moreover, all the cases registered against protesters should be withdrawn, he added.
N.V. Kannan, the president of the Thanjavur district unit of the Tamilnadu Vivasayigal Sangam, and S. Vimalanathan, secretary, Thanjavur District Cauvery Farmers’ Protection Association, called upon the State government to provide legal heft to the announcement by bringing in a Bill and getting it passed in the Assembly.
“The Bill should be drafted in such a way that it adds weight to the litigations opposing oil exploration projects in agricultural fields that are pending before various courts and tribunals. For this purpose, the Tamil Nadu government should convene a special Assembly session before the regular Budget session,” they demanded.
Another section of farmers were guarded in their reaction. “It is only a temporary relief to the delta farmers. Apprehensions among the people remain, as the Centre has, in the past, disregarded the laws enacted in the State Assembly on important issues. We hope that the proposed law will not face the same fate as the Bill that sought an exemption for T.N. from NEET,” said Mahadanapuram V. Rajaram, a farmer-leader. Mr. Dakshinamurthy observed that the Chief Minister's announcement will carry weight only after the Governor approves the proposed law.