The first public hearing of villagers for the proposed second airport project in Chennai ended up in confusion, dissent and a section of people boycotting the meeting.
The state government had called the meeting to take the public into confidence and seek their views for the new airport at Parandur, about 70 km South West of Chennai city.
What irked many who came from villages for the hearing at the Kancheepuram district collectorate was the poor organisation and confusing directions, even as it was attended by three state ministers –PWD Minister E V Velu, Industries Minister Thangam Thennarasu, and Minister for Mini, Small and Micro Enterprises T M Anbarasan.
Representatives from areas where land acquisition is expected to take place raised concerns about loss of employment, agricultural land and their residential areas.
NOT THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Before the arrival of ministers, many villagers decided to boycott the hearing, complaining of the directions given by officials to segregate them into different groups.
Nithya, vice-president of Parandur Panchayat, an area known for its rich water resources and farming, said, “We were informed about the meeting by the Village Administrative Officer on Monday evening. Three members of the Panchayat council and five representatives from the village were asked to come. After reaching at 9am, we were kept waiting for three hours. But then officials asked representatives from two villages — Parandur and Valathur — to move to a room for separate talks. We opposed it and told them we will attend the meeting only if we are heard together. They cannot divide us and hold talks.”
Land acquisition for the proposed project is expected to cover 12 villages, including Parandur in Kancheepuram district, south of Chennai. Parandur was among the four villages, including Mel Eri, Ekanampuram and Nelvai, that passed resolutions against the airport project in their grama sabha meetings held on Independence Day on Monday.
Balaji, a resident of Nagapattu in Parandur Village, said the public hearing was hurriedly called after the officials came to know about the resolutions passed by them. “We were not informed about who is going to meet us at the hearing,” he said, adding largely the DMK cadre attended the hearing.
Ilango, a resident of Ekanapuram village, said no one from his village was present. “Not even our village panchayat president. What has triggered the suspicion was officials’ attempt to meet representatives of the villages separately. Ours is a largely self-sufficient village. Every family cultivates rice, pulses and everything we need. But now, according to the project map, we will lose our agricultural lands as well as the houses. The entire village will be erased from the map,” he said.
Industries Minister Thennarasu said, “We will have many rounds of talks to listen to people. We understand that displacement is a painful process. The concerns expressed will be conveyed to the Chief Minister.”
ON THE CARDS FOR 2 DECADES
Ever since Parandur was finalised as the location, residents, environmentalists and others have been questioning the move.
Even as a second airport project for Chennai was on the cards for almost two decades, it never took off. The previous UPA regime in Delhi had plans to build an airport in Sriperumbudur near Chennai, which never took off.
Chief Minister M K Stalin in his recent statement said it was the increase in air traffic that necessitated the project. The estimated cost of the new project is Rs 20,000 crore.
Read the Latest News and Breaking News here