Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami’s announcement to categorize eight Cauvery delta districts as a ‘Special Protected Agricultural Zone’, in a move to ensure the state’s food security has been welcomed by leaders from across party lines but has drawn flak from the principal opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
The Chief Minister’s announcement gains significance as there has been continued opposition to projects like those involving hydrocarbon extraction, including Neduvasal in Pudukottai district. Meant has also come under attack from the opposition parties and fringe outfits for allegedly attempting to bring in projects that would cause irreparable damage to the agricultural land.
The CM’s announcement was welcomed by their ally PMK’s leader Ramadoss, who welcomed the move, calling it a “victory”, as it would prevent the desertification of the Cauvery districts. Tamil Nadu Congress Chief K.S. Alagiri also had expressed that the move would benefit the farmers.
DMK MLA and Principal Secretary KN Nehru stated that the announcement regarding the protected agricultural zone was only meant to divert people’s attention from the betrayal of farmers in the delta region. He issued a statement challenging the Chief Minister to adopt a resolution in the Assembly, which would ensure that hydrocarbon exploration projects will be prohibited in the delta region, and cancel the exploration projects awarded to the Vedanta group and ONGC.
“The Chief Minister should also withdraw the letter written by Environment Minister K.C. Karuppannan, in which he had stated that public hearings and environmental clearances were not necessary for such projects. After that, he can make the announcement designating the delta region as a protected agricultural zone in the Assembly,” the DMK leader said.
The DMK leader’s statement called the Chief Minister’s announcement a ‘farcical drama’, stating that the AIADMK government had approached the Supreme Court against the Madras High Court’s direction on a farm loan waiver. “If the CM thinks people would forget about the suicide of 13 farmers and the police action against farmers, he is day-dreaming”.
The statement also condemned the CM’s statement that it was the erstwhile DMK government that had granted permission for hydrocarbon exploration projects.
During an official function on Sunday at Thalaivasal, in his native district Salem, the Chief Minister assured that the State Government would never grant the go-ahead for projects such as hydrocarbon exploration in the delta region.
Farmers in the Cauvery delta region have been opposing the proposed hydrocarbon project of the Central government, which was meant to be executed by Vedanta Limited and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Limited.
In his speech, Palaniswami said that his government was taking the decision to declare the delta region as a protected agricultural zone in recognition of the farmers' concerns and toils. “I may be the Chief Minister, but I am a farmer too and would never permit any project that would affect farmers livelihood. This decision is to end the hardships faced by farmers”.
He announced that the Cauvery delta regions in Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam, Pudukottai, Cuddalore, Ariyalur, Karur and Trichy districts would be categorized under a Protected special agriculture zone. The Chief Minister also added that the government would enact special legislation after seeking opinions from legal experts.
Palaniswami also accused senior DMK leader T.R. Baalu, for having chosen to implement the project in Tamil Nadu in 2010. The DMK government in January 2011 signed an MoU with a private firm to drill borewells and conduct explorations for four years in the region, he stated.
The MoU was signed when DMK president M.K. Stalin was the Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. But now the DMK was conducting protests in the region and spreading lies among the public, he said.