NLC set out to start the third thermal station, seeking the state’s help in acquiring land
Not many would have heard the rumblings in the cashew gardens and agricultural fields of Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore district on Saturday. A bandh, called by a state-level political party, the PMK, despite evoking decent response, went unnoticed by the rest of the world though it was basically a conflict between development and people’s land rights. While the PMK accused the state government of “grabbing” poor people’s land to enable Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), a Navaratna company of the Union government, to expand its power generation capacity, not many others voiced concerns, although those affected have been resisting the move for quite some time.
The popular perception is that the latest resistance in Cuddalore district, known for its sprawling cashew gardens, is a just continuum of the traditional struggle of the people seeking jobs in the public sector behemoth since its inception in 1958. The NLC that overran hundreds of villages then to establish its two power stations, the lignite mines and a sprawling township with all facilities is accused of reneging on its promise to give jobs to those who gave land.
NLC, as a company, did well on all fronts and the electricity generated by the thermal stations complemented the state’s power demands, but a collective sense of disillusionment set in among the people as they felt left out of the entire development scheme. It was in this backdrop that NLC set out to start the third thermal station, seeking the state’s help in acquiring land. When the government used police force against recalcitrant land owners, there was an outburst of public anger that the PMK cashed in on. But even the main Opposition party, the AIADMK, extended support to the people and asked for the invocation of the R&R Act for providing adequate compensation for land losers. But with the state reposing confidence in its police force, the situation has turned macabre, threatening to leave NLC with blood on its hands.