Anti-green highway protests gain momentum in TN

The police have detained farmers and villagers who are spearheading the agitation against the Chennai-Salem Green Corridor Expressway. Representative image.

With memories from anti-Sterlite protests still afresh, the Tamil Nadu Government seems to be leaving no stone unturned in quelling the protests against the proposed Chennai-Salem Green Express Highway.

Besides detaining farmers and villagers who spearheaded the agitation in their respective areas, the Salem Police have arrested actor Mansoor Ali Khan and environmentalist Piyush Manush for “misleading the villagers” over the project.

While Khan was arrested for making provocative statements against the project, Manush was taken into custody for being vocal in his opposition to the project and expansion of Salem Airport. On Tuesday, another student activist, Valarmathi, and over 20 villagers were taken into custody.

Activists allege that the government wants to ensure that the protests do not gain momentum like the one in Thoothukudi and want to nip it in the bud. Drawing a parallel with the anti-Sterlite protests that grew in strength over weeks, activists said the administration does want another agitation of Sterlite’s magnitude.

However, Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said the arrests have been made to ensure that people are not misled. “Law will take its own course. We can’t sit idle when people continue to make provocative statements,” he said.

Narayanan, whose land the government wants to acquire for the project, said that the police landed on his doorstep at 4 am on June 9 when he was attending to the cows.

“I refused to leave my place without tending to the cattle. They said they just wanted to ask me a few questions, but took me to Salem and placed me under detention just to intimidate us,” Narayanan said.

Before his arrest, Manush told DH that the police interference was “too much” and that farmers are being threatened to give away their land.

While the state government stoutly defends the project, industry body CII sees the Green Highway as a “game changer” which would enhance economic growth of the central districts in the state.

“The project would be a game changer in enhancing the economic growth of central districts of Tamil Nadu,” said M Ponnuswami, chairman of CII-TN, adding that it would reduce transportation cost, particularly for the manufacturing industries.

Making a statement in the Assembly last week, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami asserted that the project would boost economic growth and its gains far outweighed other factors.

 

 

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Anti-green highway protests gain momentum in TN

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