Five grama sabhas pass resolution against NLC’s land acquisition, govt transfers panchayat secretaries

The villagers have been opposing the NLC acquiring an additional 25,000 acres of land to expand its mining operations.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published May 06, 2023 | 8:12 PMUpdated May 06, 2023 | 8:12 PM

Five grama sabhas pass resolution against NLC’s land acquisition, govt transfers panchayat secretaries

The Cuddalore district administration transferred five panchayat secretaries who allowed villagers to pass resolutions against NLC India acquiring land for expanding its mining operations.

On 1 May, Grama Sabha meetings were held across the state. In Cuddalore, the meetings were held at Kathalai, Chinnanerkunam, Melvalayamadevi, Kilvalayamadevi, and Nellikollai village panchayats.

The NLC acquired land in Kathalai, Chinnanerkunam, Valayamadevi, Keel Valayamadevi, Karivetti, and surrounding villages for its second mining expansion project.

Claiming that the lands acquired are agriculture fields, the villagers staged several protests demanding proper compensation for the property.

The villagers also said that the NLC is again planning to acquire 25,000 acres of agricultural land for its mining activities.

People from Kathalai, Chinnanerkunam, Melvalayamadevi, Kilvalayamadevi, and Nellikollai, passed resolutions against the acquisition and handed them over to the panchayat secretaries who were present at the meeting on 1 May.

On Thursday, 4 May, Block Development Officer (Village Panchayats) V Murugan issued transfer orders to the secretaries of the Kathalai, Chinnanerkunam, Melvalayamadevi, Kilvalayamadevi, and Nellikollai village panchayats, who are state government officials.

However, the order cited administrative reasons for the transfer.

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Rightful resolution

K Murugan, a resident of Melvalayamadevi village, said that the grama sabha meetings were held to discuss and address the problems of the villagers.

“But here, the government is not even ready to consider the request or the resolution passed by the people in the grama sabha meeting. Then why such a meeting should be conducted,” he asked.

C Rajakumaran, a farmer from Kathalai village, said that the Union government had announced in the Lok Sabha in 2021 that under the National Monetisation Pipeline, the assets of NLC would be sold by 2025.

“Then why are they forcibly acquiring our agricultural lands? Within two years the government will not compensate us,” he said.

“It will make the issue drag on. When the NLC is sold to the private sector, how will they provide compensation and jobs,” he told South First.

“As a voter, citizen, and member of the grama sabha, we have all the right to express our concern to the government,” Rajakumaran added.

A village secretary, who was transferred, said that the secretaries have no role in tabling resolutions.

“Our duty is only to record the meeting minutes and resolutions passed,” he told South First, requesting anonymity.

However, the village secretary said that all five, including him, accepted the transfer. “We are not in a position to dispute the transfer and talk against the government,” he added.

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No administrative issues

The gram sabha is the primary and permanent body of the Panchayati Raj system and by far the largest.

According to Article 243 (O) of the Indian Constitution, no courts could interfere in electoral matters. The power to annul a decision of the gram sabha rests with the gram sabha concerned.

Gram sabha may exercise such powers and perform such functions at the village level as the legislature of a state

Speaking to South First, the state president of Tamil Nadu Panchayat Secretaries’ Association, A John Bosco, said that though no reasons were cited for the transfer, no administrative issues prevailed in those panchayats.

“A panchayat resolution can be annulled by the district collector. Whereas a grama sabha resolution cannot be struck down by any official or even by courts,” Bosco said.

The people’s voice

He also stated that the significance of the grama sabha resolution is that it is passed by the people.

“Each voter in the village is a member of the grama sabha and they are empowered to bring in a resolution and it could be passed with a majority of other voters,” he said.

He further added: “If a resolution is passed by the grama sabha, it will be forwarded to the Block Development Officer concerned by the panchayat secretaries and then the BDO will forward it to the district collector. Further, the collector will forward it to the state.”