TIRUVANNAMALAI: Thousands of farmers at Paliapattu near Tiruvannamalai have been showing strong opposition and protesting for months against the setting up of proposed industrial park under the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT). They expressed their concern that the project if implemented, would affect the farming and lives of those who depend on it.
Speaking to TNIE they said though the agitation began in December 2021, when the revenue department officials inspected their lands in Paaliapattu -- a panchayat in Chengam Taluk -- three kilometres from Tiruvannamalai town, no official got back to them with positive news.
"We are opposing the project because Paaliapattu and surrounding villages have fertile lands formed by generations of farmers. If these lands are acquired by the government for industrial activities, farming will collapse forcing local farmers to abandon farming and move in search of other jobs," B Sampath, one of the representatives of SIPCOT Ethirpu Vivasaya Makkal Iyakkam, told TNIE.
The environment is thriving as over 4,600 agrarian families cultivate paddy, sugarcane, flowers, and vegetables in this area, Sampath said, adding that they have not faced water shortage or depletion and contamination of groundwater level. However, they are worried about facing such an issue if the project gets set up in the farmlands, rued another farmer.
Residents from Puthiya colony, Arunthathiyar area, Chinna Punalkadu, Mariamman Nagar, Anna Nagar, Selvapuram, Vaniyambadi, Periya Punalkadu, and Chinna Paaliapattu are other villages have staged demonstrations, brought up the issue in farmers' grievances meeting, and picketed government offices, but no avail.
When TNIE spoke to the filmmaker and screenwriter Lenin Bharathi about the issue, he said that he is on the farmers' side and supports the agitating farmers. The director said, "Fertile lands should be protected. While industrial growth can be made, it should not affect the environment."
Citing DMK's election manifesto, he highlighted that the party had said acquiring farmlands and converting them for other use without the permission of farmers will be stopped and added that the State government should consider implementing it now.
When contacted, Tiruvannamalai Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO) Vetrivel said it is a State government project and Tiruvannamalai is one of the districts where the SIPCOT is likely to be established. However, the project site within the district is not finalised yet.