Salem, Tamil Nadu: Piyush Manush, an environmental activist based in Tamil Nadu's Salem district, was arrested on Monday night for allegedly "instigating enmity between groups," said the police. Mr Manush has been supporting locals in Salem who are protesting the proposed airport expansion and eight-lane, 270-kilometre super highway, which will pass through the district as per the plan.
- Piyush Manush backs protests against proposed airport and road expansion
- He was arrested a day after actor Mansoor Ali Khan's arrest
- Farmers in several districts oppposing government bid to acquire land
Environmentalists are worried that both the projects are likely to destroy more than 2,000 hectares of fertile agricultural land and thickly forested slopes of the ecologically fragile hills.
Mr Manush was taken into custody a day after actor and green crusader Mansoor Ali Khan was arrested for his alleged remarks of threatening to "kill eight people and going to jail if the government goes ahead with the proposed eight-lane project."
"Some people are using the proposed highway to disrupt peace. It is for the people and their welfare. The Tamil Nadu government is not anti-people and their voices will be heard," said minister D Jayakumar.
Piyush has been sent to the Salem Central Jail for allegedly making provoking statements.
Farmers in the districts of Nambedu, Siruvanjur, Anandavadi, Alialamangalam, Ravandavadi and Sorakolathur have been opposing the government's bid to acquire land for the projects, claiming they would lose their livelihood and that the government has taken a unilateral decision, without talking to them.
The opposition in Tamil Nadu has warned the state government of a Sterlite-like situation, where 13 people were killed in violent protests on May 22-23.
Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami has said the state plans to acquire only around 40 acres of forested area and use 400 acres of government-owned land. The planned highway is under the central scheme of Bharatmala Pariyayojana, the Nitin Gadkari-led transport ministry's Rs 8 lakh crore flagship project, which is set to start off by the end of this year.
While the country's top road building body claims the highway will "eliminate bottlenecks and reduce the travel time" between Chennai and Salem", environmentalists and local people say the project, which would reduce the distance by approximately 50 km, is not worth the kind of damage it will cause, as these cities are already well connected by two highways and there is no pressing demand for a super highway.
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