TIRUNELVELI: The residents of Alavanthankulam in Manur taluk have decided to boycott this year's Deepavali celebrations to mark the opposition to the SIPCOT's efforts to acquire their 335-acre pasture for establishing a private solar power plant. "We are observing a 'black Deepavali' this time," they said.
Many houses here now sport black flags, and banners bearing messages demanding the State government to abandon the land acquisition process. "This parcel of land falls under the Panchami land category and it was handed over to the Scheduled Caste community people here by the British government in 1892. However, the SIPCOT has now issued us a notice to acquire the land, which is specified under '64 Ar Arijana Uzhavar Samuthayam' in the government records," the villagers said in a statement.
According to the statement, the State government is in the process of acquiring around 500 acres of land from nine villages, including Alavanthankulam, Thenkalam and Nallammalpuram, to set up a private solar power plant in the Gangaikondan SIPCOT area. Of the total area required, 335 acres belong to the SC community people in Alavanthankulam.
"The residents of these villages raise nearly one lakh cattle and around 2,500 litres of milk is daily produced in Alavanthankulam alone. If this solar plant come up on our pasture land, we wouldn't have a place to let our cattle graze and our livelihoods will be hit. We had fought a legal battle in 2000 to save this pasture from land-grabbers," they added.
Referring to the State government's plan to construct a goshala (cow shelter) over 25 acres in Chennai at a cost of Rs 20 crore, the villagers said, "Our pasture is like a natural goshala, where thousands of cattle graze peacefully. So, we request the authorities to drop plans to acquire our land."
When contacted by TNIE, Tahsildar Shanmugam, who is supervising the land acquisition process, said the particular parcel of land is not mentioned as Panchami land in government records even though it belongs to the SC community people. "We will seek clarification from various stakeholders on whether there is a provision to acquire this land," he added.