Chennai: The 22-day-long protests at Neduvasal in Pudukottai district against the Centre’s proposed project on exploration of hydrocarbon was temporarily suspended on Thursday night after a round of talks by Union and state ministers.
However, the villagers have threatened to resume the agitation if the government fails to scrap the venture.
The villagers are claiming that the project would affect their farmland by polluting the groundwater.
On an assurance given by minister of public health C. Vijaya Baskar to the villagers on Thursday evening that the state government would not give permission for the project and on a promise given by Union minister of state for shipping Pon Radhakrishnan to arrange for a meeting between the representatives and Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan in New Delhi on 15-16 March, the villagers decided to call off the stir temporarily.
Radhakrishnan, who said that the Central government will not force any project against the wishes of the people, added, “I’m happy that the protests against the hydrocarbon project have been called off. I extend my appreciations and thanks to the village headmen, youngsters, students and women.”
A day after the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its approval to award contract in 31 areas to 44 oilfields, including 28 on-land and 16 offshore fields discovered by Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) and Oil India Ltd (OIL), on 15 February, the residents of Neduvasal started their agitation.
GEM Laboratories Private Limited, a company based at Davangere in Karnataka, bagged the contract for the project in Neduvasal.
The protests, which started in Neduvasal and its neighbouring villages spread across other districts in Tamil Nadu, gained momentum following huge support from students, activists, politicians and other celebrities.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami had earlier assured that the state government would not implement any project that would be “destructive to the interest of the farmers”.
The state had witnessed similar protests in Thanjavur and Tiruvarur districts in the Cauvery Delta region from 2011 against the coal bed methane and shale gas extraction project— for extracting methane gas using hydraulic fracturing— leading the Centre to scrap the project in November 2016.