Many feel it will impact election
Apprehensions over the Centre’s moves to tap hydrocarbon reserves, amidst widespread resistance from farmers, remain a key election issue in the Cauvery delta.
The Centre’s decision to award contracts for exploration in three blocks in Tamil Nadu, including two Cauvery offshore blocks, in October last year kept the issue alive in the core delta districts of Thanjavur, Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur, considered the rice bowl of the State.
Recently, a section of villagers at Thirukaravasal in Tiruvarur district suspended their more than month-long sit-in protest against the Centre’s decision, but not before calling for a poll boycott.
A week-long stir at Kariyapattinam in Nagapattinam district was brought to a forcible end by the police after the elections was notified this month.
In 2017, the prolonged protest by villagers of Neduvasal in Pudukottai district grew into a mass movement against hydrocarbon exploration in the delta region. Doubts over oil and natural gas exploration led to widespread protests in Kadiramangalam in Thanjavur district too.
“The issue will definitely reflect in the election,” says P.R. Pandian, president, Tamil Nadu All Farmers’ Associations’ Coordination Committee, pointing out that the Centre, despite the sporadic and persistent protests, continued to award contracts for exploration of hydrocarbon, which threatened to “destroy the delta.”
Keeping it alive
Seeking to keep the focus on the issue, Tamil Nadu Nilam Neer Padukkappu Iyakkam, comprising a group of activists, has fielded nine candidates in the Mayiladuthurai Lok Sabha constituency.
“Agriculture in the delta, especially in Nagapattinam and Tiruvarur districts, is in grave danger due to destructive projects such as hydrocarbon exploration. Every party is now claiming that it will not allow such projects, only to deceive the farmers during elections. We want to make farmers aware of this and decided to field our candidates. We fielded 11 candidates as Independents, but the nominations of two were rejected,” K.M. Iraniyan, organiser of the movement, told The Hindu on Thursday. The movement, through its campaign, will sensitise farmers to the dangers of projects of “mass destruction” which will lead to “mass migration” of farmers, he says.
The move seems to be a reflection of the prevailing mood among farmers in the delta. “There is apprehension (over the hydrocarbon project) among farmers and the general public as well. Without doubt, it is a major issue which could influence voters in the delta this election. The BJP and the Congress will suffer unless they come out with clear assurances that they will not implement the project,” says Arupathi S. Kalyanam, general secretary, Federation of Farmers’ Associations of Delta Districts.