Jaya orders public hearing over GAIL pipeline row

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa extended her support to farmers up in arms against a gas pipeline project of the GAIL India Ltd.

Updated: Feb 28, 2013, 18:04 PM IST

Chennai: Extending her support to farmers up in arms against a gas pipeline project of the GAIL India Ltd, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Thursday said no action should be taken against their interests.

She also announced three public hearings next month to ascertain the farmers` opinion after which an appropriate decision that would not affect farmers would be taken.

A section of farmers in seven western districts of the state are opposing laying of the 600-km Kochi-Salem-Bangalore Gas pipeline through their lands, saying it would affect farm operations.

Jayalalithaa said she held a consultative meeting today with her senior cabinet colleagues after it was brought to her notice that pipelines were being laid "contrary to farmers` wishes", in agricultural lands in villages of Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Namakkal, Salem, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts.

"I stressed in the meeting that no action should be taken against farmers` interests and it was important to know their opinion first," she said in a statement.

In line with a Madras High court directive, she directed that public hearings be held on March 08, 09 and 10 by Chief Secretary Sheela Balakrishnann, adding print advertisements will be released in this regard.

"I request farmers who could be affected by GAIL project to air their views without any fear. After hearing their opinions, another meeting will be chaired by me where appropriate decisions that will not affect farmers will be taken," she said.

A contempt petition has been filed by a farmers` association against the Tamil Nadu Government before Madras High Court for not implementing its order to convene a meeting to resolve the dispute over laying of pipelines.

Members of the petitioner association had prevented GAIL from laying the pipeline through their farm lands on the grounds that it would affect farming operations. Following this GAIL moved the high court for police protection, which was rejected in October last year.

However, the court had directed the state government to convene a meeting of district collectors, GAIL officials and land owners to arrive at a "workable solution" and facilitate laying of pipelines.

When the contempt plea came up for hearing yesterday, the government sought three weeks time following which the court ordered status quo till then.