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Tamil Nadu on the boil over Neduvasal project, farmers’ loan-waiver demand

LiveMint logoLiveMint 29-03-2017 Dharani Thangavelu

Chennai: The dissent against the Centre’s hydrocarbon extraction project and the protests by Tamil Nadu farmers in Delhi seem to be the next rallying point for the state to express its discontent.

The 22-day-long protests against the extraction of hydrocarbon in Neduvasal village in Pudukottai district, Tamil Nadu and Karaikal, in Puducherry and other districts, which were suspended on 9 March, is on the verge of getting a fresh lease of life as the Centre had signed the contracts for the 31 fields across the country and awarded under the Discovered Small Field (DSF) Bid Round 2016.

Karnataka-based Gem Laboratories has been allotted the field in Neduvasal for carrying out the extraction and Bharat Petro Resources will be handling the project in Karaikal.

According to one of the members of the Neduvasal protests, the villagers would soon decide on their ways to take forward the agitation. Earlier this month, after assurance from the Centre and the state, the protestors had temporarily suspended the protests but threatened to resume if the government didn’ t scrap the project.

DMK working president and leader of opposition M.K. Stalin on Tuesday claimed this move signalled that the state had cooperated with the Centre and urged the state government to release the Centre’s letter in connection with the project.

While the Centre had assured that any project against the wishes of the people will not be implemented, the Tamil Nadu government had promised that it will not give approval for the Centre’s project.

Last week, the Union minister of state for petroleum and natural gas, Dharmendra Pradhan, other Union ministers such as Nirmala Sitharaman and Pon Radhakrishnan met a delegation of representatives from Neduvasal as they addressed their concerns about the project’s impact on soil, agricultural land and contamination of ground water table.

Also Read | Tamil Nadu hydrocarbon project sees protests from farmers, environmentalists

Meanwhile, a statewide protest will be launched on Friday by the Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association in solidarity with the scores of the state’s farmers who are protesting in New Delhi for a fortnight, demanding waiver of loans and setting up of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and the Cauvery Water Regulatory Committee (CWRC), among other issues. They have also urged the Centre for a better compensation package for drought relief.

Last week, the Centre approved a financial assistance package of Rs2,014 crore for Tamil Nadu as against the state government’s demand of Rs39,565 crore for drought relief. Tamil Nadu is facing its worst drought in 140 years.

Also Read | Why is Tamil Nadu angry?

As reports spread in social media that students and youths are mobilizing to protest for farmers’ rights and against the Neduvasal project, security was beefed up on Tuesday at the Marina beach— the epicentre of Jallikattu protests that rocked Tamil Nadu in January.

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