PMK protest against NLC turns violent in TN’s Neyveli, police fire 3 rounds in air, detain Anbumani Ramadoss

The party workers were protesting against NLC destroying crops while repossessing land it had acquired a decade ago.

ByLaasya Shekhar

Published Jul 28, 2023 | 6:02 PMUpdatedJul 28, 2023 | 9:37 PM

PMK protest against NLC turns violent in TN’s Neyveli, police fire 3 rounds in air, detain Anbumani Ramadoss

Tension gripped Neyveli in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore district as the police fired three rounds in the air to disperse violent Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) workers on Friday, 28 July.

The PMK was agitating against the land acquisition by NLC India Limited (formerly Neyveli Lignite Corporation) for the expansion of its mines.

The agitators turned violent after the police detained PMK president Anbumani Ramadoss and other leaders. They destroyed barricades and pelted stones, injuring at least eight police personnel, including the Neyveli inspector, and six journalists.

The police initially resorted to baton-charge, used water cannons, and tear-gassed the unruly crowd before opening fire in the air.  The party workers blocked the police vehicle taking Ramadoss and others. The leaders were later taken in another vehicle and detained at a private marriage hall.

Shops downed shutters in Cuddalore following the violence and the arrest of the PMK leaders. Public transport was suspended in the region. The police said they took nearly 45 minutes to contain the violence. More than 2,000 police personnel have been deployed in the district to maintain law and order.

State police chief Shankar Jiwal has left Chennai for Neyveli.

Also read: Why the lignite blocks in TN’s Cauvery delta mines turbulence

The protest

PMK protested in front of NLC, demanding its closure. The agitators accused the public sector unit (PSU) of polluting natural resources and destroying farmlands at five villages in the district to expand its mines.

The five villages have been in the news for the past three days after NLC started re-possessing the land it had acquired between 2006 and 2013. The PSU allegedly destroyed the standing paddy to divert the Upper Paravanar Canal at Valayamadevi to flood-proof its mines, as part of its expansion plan.

The move drew strong opposition from the farmers. 

NLC maintained that it had informed the farmers multiple times. Farmers from Valayamadevi said that they had requested NLC time till the harvest. The Cuddalore district administration said it had already informed the farmers about the PSU’s work and advised them to refrain from farming on NLC land.

Opposition leaders, AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami, and DMDK President Vijayakanth condemned the land takeover move.

BJP state president K Annamalai, on Thursday, took strong exception to the “manner of acquiring lands using earthmovers to destroy paddy crop” and said a proper procedure ought to be followed while taking possession of the property.

Also read: Farmers question TN’s silence, say mining only ‘over our bodies’

‘TN doesn’t need NLC’

Speaking to the media after his detention, Ramadoss said Tamil Nadu does not need NLC-generated power. He referred to a statement former Electricity Minister V Senthil Balaji made two months ago that the state was selling surplus electricity to neighbouring states.

“It is cruel and unjust to destroy the soil in the name of generating electricity,” he said. 

“The issue is not just about Cuddalore. It is an issue concerning Tamil Nadu. It is our responsibility to protect the soil for the next generation. The PMK will continue to fight to protect natural resources,” he added. 

Also read: No ‘Tamil’ engineer in NLC: OPS takes a dig at DMK government

The issue

NLCIL acquired over 304 hectares from five villages in Cuddalore between 2006 and 2013. While it had utilised about 273 hectares, the rest was left unused. Farmers continued to cultivate crops on the unutilised land in NLC’s legal possession. 

On Wednesday, the PSU cleared the standing crops from the land. The farmers protested, saying the compensation paid while acquiring land a decade ago was inadequate and unfair.

They also expressed disappointment over NLC not keeping its promise of employing members of the families that had parted with their land. 

The NLC said the members of farmers’ families have been employed on contract and they would be made permanent staff once they cleared an internal examination. 

Neyveli has one of the largest lignite deposits in the country.