MADURAI: Stating that cracks are forming on the bridge above a water canal (58th Kaalvai Thottipalam) in Usilampatti owing to operations of a private stone quarry nearby, farmers from the region unanimously demanded District Collector MS Sangeetha to cancel the license of the quarry.
The demand was raised during the agriculture grievance meeting convened by the collector in Usilampatti taluk on Friday. The farmers' protest seeking the license cancellation has, meanwhile, crossed two weeks.
"After much struggle, we got the authorities to construct a bridge costing Rs 85 crore here. This has greatly benefitted people from the region to reach workplace and educational institutions. However, the Dindigul District Collector and Assistant Director for Mines gave a license for a quarry to function in the Battalagundu Viruvedu area, which is near the bridge and falls on the district's border. The license was granted in violation of several norms," said Kasi, one of the farmers.
Reportedly, Kundaru Irrigation Zone Executive Engineer N Anbuchelvam provided a 'no objection certificate' for the quarry. The farmers also claimed that the private quarry workers has been stocking explosive materials near the bridge. "They carry out explosions for extracting blue metals and this has caused cracks on the bridge. Further, the area is always filled with smoke and dust. The water quality here has also deteriorated," he added.
As many as 854 hectares of agricultural land in 19 panchayats are irrigated from the water canal and farmers fear damages to the bridge will affect their irrigation source as well. Usilampatti MLA Aiyappan has also requested the district collector to cancel the quarry license. He had also urged the collector to press the state government to issue an order permitting the channelling of water from the Vaigai Dam to the water canal. At present, it receives water only after the Periya Kanmoi in Ramanathapuram receives water, he said.
Vaigai Thirumangalam Main Canal Water Users Farmers Association President MP Raman said the farmers of Usilampatti have been staging a sit-in protest at T. Vilakku area in Usilampatti-Madurai main road from July 5 onwards, seeking cancellation of the license. Collector MS Sangeetha has assured the farmers to take appropriate steps to redress their grievances. Though TNIE tried to speak with Dindigul Collector MN Poongodi, she was unavailable for comments.