Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin Friday issued an order to drop the provisions of the Goondas Act against six of the seven farmers who were booked under the specific Act.
These six farmers are a part of the 21 who were arrested in the middle of the night on November 4 based on an FIR filed in August.
A section of farmers have been protesting the state government’s proposal to acquire lands for the Phase-III of the SIPCOT (State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu Ltd) project near Cheyyar in Tiruvannamalai.
According to an official statement issued by the Directorate of Information and Public Relations (DIPR), there were no major factories at Tiruvannamalai and due to the SIPCOT Industrial parks, the youths and women of Seyyar and Vembakkam were hugely benefited.
The statement noted that at Cheyyar under the phase I of the project, a SIPCOT industrial park was set up on 645 acre of land and 13 companies are currently functioning there generating employment opportunities for 27,432 people directly and 75,000 indirectly.
Similarly, in the phase-II of the project, which was set up on 2,300 hectare, 55 companies are currently operating, providing direct job opportunities to 31,645 people and indirectly to close to a lakh people.
It was noted that based on the success rate of the above parks, and following the request of the people, the proposal for the phase-III was carried out by the government and the necessary orders were passed.
The statement added that measures were taken to acquire 3,174 acre of land for the proposed project at Melma and eight other villages around it and of the total land, only seven acre of land is wetland.
Dismissing the allegations that the land owners are not willing to provide their land for the construction of the project, the state government noted that for now, an announcement has been made only to acquire 1,200 acre of land and there are no wetlands in this and of the total 1,881 land owners, only 239 have raised objections to acquisition of land.
The statement claimed that since July 7, under the leadership of K Pachaiyappan, the coordinator of the Melma SIPCOT project farmers protest movement, people started to agitate on a daily basis and engaged in activities against the law which includes preventing government officials from carrying out their duties, stopping other landowners from handing over their land to the government, damaging public property, etc.
Thus, the statement added, the police on November 4 arrested 20 people, including A Arul, a resident of Krishnagiri and leader of the Melma SIPCOT project farmers protest movement and remanded the accused in judicial custody.
It was noted that Arul already has several cases pending against him and alongside him, six other farmers who engaged in the protest were booked under the Goondas Act.
According to the press release, the families of the six farmers – M Devan, M Thirumal, N Sozhan, K Pachiyappan, C Masilamani and B Bakkiyaraj — had approached the Public Works Minister and Tiruvannamalai MLA E V Velu over the issue and assured him that they will no longer participate in any protest unnecessarily against government schemes.
The statement adds that the families told the minister that they had committed the mistake based on the instigation of a few people and requested him to initiate measures to cancel the provisions of the Goondas Act and release them.
“The minister had brought the petition to the notice of the Chief Minister who then issued orders to withdraw the Goondas Act invoked against the farmers,” the statement read.
Earlier during the press briefing at Tiruvannamalai on Friday, Velu asked whether factories can be constructed in the sky since there are protests on ground.
He further noted that he is unaware of the Goondas Act invoked against the farmers as he was busy with other developmental works and learnt about the issue through the media.
“Several consultation meetings were held on behalf of the government over this issue. The government is providing a compensation of 2.5 times the market value of the land to the farmers whose lands are being acquired for the project,” he said. The minister added that the farmers of the particular area were instigated by people who hail from other districts.
It is to be noted that Opposition parties, including the AIADMK, the BJP and the PMK have condemned the government action to arrest the farmers for their peaceful protest and further slap the provisions of the Goondas Act against them.
Jayaram Venkatesan, the convenor of Arappor Iyakkam, a non-governmental anti-corruption watchdog, in a letter to Stalin and other bureaucrats said the government’s stand to oppress the fundamental rights is reprimandable.
He also asked why the protestors were arrested and remanded based on an FIR registered against them in August.