TN keen on airport project, 1,600 voters in two villages decide to boycott election

TNIE visited Ekanapuram and a few other neighbouring villages, whose fertile lands will soon be acquired for the airport.
Farmers in the land proposed for Parandur airport
Farmers in the land proposed for Parandur airport(Photo | Ashwin Prasath, Express)

CHENNAI: While the Lok Sabha election fever has gripped the entire state, there is dead silence at Ekanapuram village in Kancheepuram, which may disappear from the map if the proposed Chennai’s second airport in Parandur takes shape. This village has been the epicentre of one of the longest protests — around 650 days now — the state has ever seen.

TNIE visited Ekanapuram and a few other neighbouring villages, whose fertile lands will soon be acquired for the airport. The discontent against the Dravidian majors is simmering among farmers. They claim that the parties are paying no heed to their concerns and destroying the well-oiled rural economy here.

Ekanapuram and Nagapattu villages, with about 1,600 voters, have already decided to boycott the polls. In a vain attempt to convince the villagers, Kancheepuram collector, superintendent of police, and election observer recently paid a visit here. However, even elders refused to cast postal votes.

K Alamelu (50), who was drying her paddy produce on the main road, told TNIE, “I own a house, two acres of farmland and a couple of milch cows. I have a room full of paddy at home, which is sufficient for this whole year. We harvest 2.5 tonnes of paddy per acre, which is more than what farmers in Thanjavur get. This land is gold and one bag (80 kg) is now being sold at Rs 1,500. Why should we leave this stable life? We would rather die here than allowing the government to acquire our land.”

As one travels deep inside the villages, hundreds of hectares of paddy field with standing crops ready for harvest greet the eyes. Interestingly, none of the farmers was seen using borewells or pump sets for cultivation. They use a network of lakes (irrigation tanks) to systematically draw water. Despite the harsh summer, there was moisture in soil and water in lakes, indicating a good groundwater table.

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Farmers in the land proposed for Parandur airport
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Aerial view of Ekanapuram village
Aerial view of Ekanapuram village (Photo | SV Krishna Chaithanya, EPS)

G Subramani, secretary of Ekanapuram village residents and farmers welfare federation, questions the state government’s wisdom in choosing their land for building the airport. “As per the proposed plan, two runaways will come over the lakes, which irrigate 400 acres. Ekanapuram alone will lose 905 acres. It’s total displacement.”

The 13 villages fall under two Lok Sabha constituencies — Kancheepuram and Sriperumbudur, both strongholds of the DMK.

Majority of farmers and Anti-Parandur Airport Movement leaders TNIE spoke to said that as per the pre-feasibility report, a total of four sites were explored — Padalam, Thiruporur, Pannur and Parandur — for building the proposed greenfield airport. Padalam and Thiruporur were ruled out as they were too close to Chengalpattu firing range and Kalpakkam nuclear plant. Between Pannur and Parandur, farmers say, Pannur would have been a better option considering lesser number of people and agriculture activity.

For the airport, the government proposes to acquire 5,369 acres in 13 villages — 47% irrigated agricultural land, 16% dry agricultural land and 27% water bodies (irrigation tanks).

So far, the government issued land acquisition notification in four villages — Podavoor, Gunagarambakkam, Mahadevimangalam and Akkamapuram. All these are outer villages, where only a part of its land will be acquired, unlike Ekanapuram.

The government, however, justifies the requirement of Parandur airport to meet future demands. The PFR says the master plan will be executed and operated in four phases to ultimately reach the desired capacity of 100 million passengers by 2047. The total estimated cost of the airport is Rs 32,705 crore.

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