Tamil Nadu

There is more than what meets the eye: Yogendra Yadav

Yogendra Yadav.

Yogendra Yadav.  

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Swaraj India Party leader Yogendra Yadav sees bid to protect larger interests in expressway issue.

Swaraj India Party leader Yogendra Yadav, who was on Saturday detained by the Tiruvannamalai police, says he came to Tamil Nadu with an open mind on the Salem-Chennai Corridor project. The police action makes him feel that there is an attempt to protect bigger economic interests. Excerpts from a telephonic interview with The Hindu:

When did you hear about the Salem-Chennai expressway project?

Yogendra Yadav: I have heard about it through the media, but my attention was drawn by a farmer activist from here (Krishnagiri), who came to Haryana to join my padayatra, spent two days to draw my attention.

Did you have any idea of what your visit was going to be like?

I came here on the invitation of the movement against the eight lane project. I should state clearly, I came on fact-finding mission, without having made up my mind about the project. One cannot simply assume that any project for road building is necessarily anti-people. I came with an open mind and still have an open mind, since I am yet to study the detailed technical reports. And I have not met every farmer, villager, thanks to the police.

Your thoughts about the police action…

What I have seen so far, something stinks here. The manner in which the local administration and the police had reacted was not merely a case of local police gone berserk. Clearly, there were orders from top, clearly much bigger interests involved, economic interests to protect. That a simple fact-finding mission should make the local bureaucracy so nervous convinces me that there is much more to it than that meets the eye. It certainly requires greater truth finding, deeper investigation.

What is the landscape for dissent in the State?

Yogendra Yadav: Earlier, friends from Tamil Nadu, S.P. Udhayakumar, T.M. Krishna or other activists had spoken to me about a lawless state, a Police Raj. Frankly I wasn’t sure of it, because my sense is that we all like to think the worse of our own states, be it traffic or anything. But, yesterday I saw a police that does think of an idea that it may be constrained by rule of law. Not one explanation for our detention. Then they served a forged order, backdated order, a copy of it was to have gone to all political parties and the media. I checked with all parties, no one had a grip of it. So, a forged document invoking a section (Sec 30(2)of the Police Act) prohibiting public processions, meetings, which has nothing to do with our visit that was to meet farmers in their homes, to hold private meetings. That binding rule of law is alien to police functioning, gave credence to the idea that there may be a Police Raj here.

What was the sense you got from your meetings with farmers?

We had three meetings, including meetings with 30 farmers, who were detained. Significant was our meetings with women, who waited through the day in Nanmaenthal village, and it went on till 1.30 past midnight. Rural women are so articulate, and when women speak, its unvarnished, they don’t attempt to create an effect. They asked, do we need such a project, when you already have three routes; they poured out their anxieties, anger, uncertainty, how it (the 8 lane project) would affect their lives and livelihood; about how police enter their homes, when they speak to the media. Talking to women convinced me that this project stinks. I am not adequately informed, but prima facie, it seems it’s not about public development, but private development, and prosperity of some with political interests. If they are even prima facie true, there is a reason to carefully examine the viability of the project. So many cases, where projects that promise so much beginning, end up achieving nothing except filling up the pockets of contractors. Why do you need a fourth highway, why not repair the existing one? I travelled on one of them last night, and it’s in terrible shape.

What did you achieve? And how do you carry forward this solidarity?

Something small and significant happened yesterday. Fear has been broken, and that someone can insist that ‘I shall speak to power’. If we have made even a small hole in that climate of fear, that will have to be taken forward. From our side, we are committed to a thorough investigation, and convinced that only a team from outside, a larger fact-finding team that includes retired judges will be able to move freely along the length of the project. Organisations from inside and outside the State will have to collaborate.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 3:15:37 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/there-is-more-than-what-meets-the-eye-yogendra-yadav/article24908989.ece

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