Tamil Nadu: farmers block power plant, demand compensation under new land law

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Cheyyur, Tamil Nadu:  Around 300 farmers have refused to part with their land in Cheyyur, 100 km from Chennai on the Tamil Nadu coast, for the Rs 24,000-crore power plant, asking the government to wait till the newly-elected Land Acquisition Act comes into force so that they could get market rates for their land.

Farmers allege the government is rushing them to save money for the big companies who would bid for the 4000 MW Cheyyur Ultra Mega Power Project plant.

Subaiyan, a farmer set to lose three acres of paddy field he has been cultivating for thirty years, says "Cultivable land in this area is sold for around thirty to forty lakhs an acre. But we are offered just six and a half lakh? We can't buy cultivable land with this money."

"Why are authorities rushing through the acquisition process? They are clearly helping big companies to save money. They can't bully us to sell," another farmer Rathinam says.

There are ecological concerns too. In September this year, the environment ministry gave its go-ahead to the project, but the locals claim their assessment does not match ground the reality.

The official report says the sea shore, where a port would come up, is unused and there are no ecologically sensitive locations. But protesters say there is an environmentally-sensitive lagoon with sand dunes in its vicinity.

"We use this shore to park our boats, to work on our nets and to dry fish. All these have been completely hidden in the report. Imagine what would happen when hundreds of tonnes of coal arrive here to be transported to the plant. It would destroy the ecology. We will have to breathe coal dust," says a fisherman.

The National Green Tribunal has already restrained the Power Finance Corporation of India from finalising bids for the power plant.

Authorities deny these allegations. "Nothing has been hidden. All information has been put on our website," an official told NDTV.

The Centre has earmarked Rs 27 crore for resettlement and rehabilitation and allotted another Rs 100 crore for corporate social responsibility activities in the three villages.

But the determined protesters have now written to Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, asking her to put the project on hold.


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