Introduction

We humans are inextricably linked to the land, which supports every aspect of our lives. This relationship has remained unchanged through the centuries and is closely connected to human culture, civilization and livelihood. It is natural for a person to love their own land. A farmer’s relationship with the soil he works, is especially unique. India is an agrarian economy, where agriculture sector contributes to around 17-18 percent of the country's GDP. The livelihood of more than 50 per cent of the total workforce in India cannot be safeguarded if India’s agricultural and pastoral lands are not protected. In the name of development, we are destroying the very resource that sustains us. 

 

GoodEarth Maritime Ltd

In May 2019, a research team from CAG visited Velingarayan Pettai, Pudukuppam, Karikuppam and Panjakuppam villages of Parangipettai block in Cuddalore district. During this trip, we met with the residents of Velingarayan Pettai and Pudukuppam villages, who told us that as part of a land acquisition drive, they had sold their land at below par prices to GoodEarth Maritime Ltd in 2006. The company had acquired land with the intention of constructing a shipyard. In return, GoodEarth Maritime agreed to employ contributing villagers.

Subsequently,  local communities came to know that despite receiving necessary clearances, the project had stalled due to lack of finances; and that GoodEarth Maritime had merged with IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company Ltd (ITPCL), which was in the process of constructing a thermal power plant. The community, however, was opposed to the presence of a thermal power plant in their neighbourhood. 

 

IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company Ltd (ITPCL)

In 2015, ITPCL commissioned the first unit (600 MW) of phase I of 1,200 MW (out of a total planned 3,180 MW power plant). The next year, a second unit with the same capacity was commissioned. The thermal power plant, desalination plant and the under-construction captive port are situated in Kottatai, Villiyanallur, Ariyakoshti, and Silambimangalam revenue villages in Parangipettai block of Cuddalore district. The ITPCL plant is set up on 1,181 acres of land with 12 villages located in and around it. The people in these villages are primarily, either farmers (Karikuppam and Panjakuppam) or fishermen (Pudukupppam).

 

                                                                                

IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company Ltd (ITPCL)

 

Impact on livelihood of farmers

The ITPCL had promised employment opportunities for those families that had given their land for the project. These employment opportunities would be commensurate with their educational qualifications and technical skills. They did this for a few families, but even these were unskilled jobs such as housekeeping and security. Meanwhile, the residents of the village alleged that the company chose to recruit from other states, ignoring even those members of the local community who had adequate technical qualifications

 

                                                                                                    

                                                                                                         IL&FS Tamil Nadu Power Company Ltd (ITPCL)

 

Additionally, the ownership of agricultural land from Karikuppam and Panjakuppam villages belongs to only a small group. The majority of villagers are in fact landless agricultural labourers - in their landless and unskilled state, they are likely to move to other areas, suffering from displacement and its consequences. For farmers that sold their lands, the fact remains that  any financial compensations offered, will never be considered equivalent to land ownership. A one-time financial settlement is likely to be used up quickly, leaving the villagers bereft of both land and future income.  

 

Impact on livelihood of the fishing community

About 500 fishermen are engaged in fishing and allied activities in Pudukuppam village (where the captive port and desalination plant are located). While the agricultural landowners received some compensation from the company in return for the loss of land and livelihood, like the landless agricultural labourers, the  fishermen too fall outside of the purview of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 because the beach is coastal common land (Poramboke Land). So even though the fishing commnity’s livelihood has been impacted by the power plant, (the fishermen will lose the common land where they traditionally dry their nets and bring in their catch), they must expect no compensation for it.

 

                                                                            

                                                                                              The under-construction Captive Port of ITPCL

 

For the fishing community, the fact that common land which had been serving the community for years has now been transferred to a private entity, is likely to have long lasting consequences. Financial compensation, even if it had been offered, will not take the place of traditionally established common-land use protocols. 

 

Article 21: Right to Life 

Article 21 lies at the very heart of our constitution, as it provides that, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. It is this fundamental right that protects the life and liberties of its people. In Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municipal Corporation, AIR 1986 SC 180, the court established that the right to livelihood is borne out of the right to live, as no person can live without a livelihood. In this case, fair and equal access to the land and its resources, is needed to protect their livelihood. Therefore, in this case, the land acquisition drive works contrary to  the constitution’s Right to Life.

Land acquisition and tempting offers of financial compensation seem to be increasingly common ways to  deprive people of their livelihood and consequently, their right to life.