Peasants in south Tamilnadu have been fighting against profit-hungry industrialists to protect their land and water resources. They have been repeatedly pummeled by drought, floods and hurricanes. As if this is not enough, capitalists owning solar and wind mill farms and public sector oil and gas monopolies have been inflicting them with further pain and suffering.
Tamilnadu is the second largest state in the country in terms of gross state domestic product. The rapid development of capitalism in Tamilnadu and increasing competition for land and water for industries by capitalist monopolies have brought immense misery to the people living in this resource rich region.
The demand for energy has shot up many fold. Older thermal power plants have become inefficient and expensive. This shift in energy priorities has brought in its wake a no-holds barred struggle among capitalist enterprises to grab land and water resources.
The idea of growth at any cost pervades both private and public sector monopolies. So has the principle that there is no alternative to bigger power plants, bigger industrial projects, and unplanned growth.
All this has had a devastating effect on the livelihood of working people. Industrial monopolies and state-owned industrial development corporations have tore at the land and displaced communities. They have moved villages out of the way of power plants. The pollution and hazardous effluents they generate have killed and debilitated thousands of workers. They have even diverted rivers and drilled for water without anticipating dry years.
This reckless exploitation and pollution of rivers, streams and lakes by monopolies has pushed Tamilnadu towards a bleak water future. At least 60% of groundwater resources in the state are assessed as over-exploited, critical or semi-critical, according to India's Central Ground Water Board.
Faced with this situation, villagers in the southern districts of Ramanathapuram and Thoothukudi have been vigorously demanding that growth should be in harmony with the well-being of people and not at their expense.
In June 2017, villagers in Ramanathapuram district started a protest against a solar power plant. They alleged that more than 200,000 litres of scarce water was being extracted illegally from bore wells to clean the 250,000 solar modules daily.
A private windmill firm has been accused of blocking a water channel near Ottapidaram in Thoothukudi district, as a result of which many nearby villages faced a threat of flooding.
Residents of Ottapidaram in and nearby villages Thoothukudi district are protesting against setting up of a windmill near Ottapidaram which had blocked Periyakulam, a water channel and a key source for irrigation to nearby villages. Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam has been in the forefront of this struggle.
Development of the energy sector with a profit-driven motive has resulted in a major damage to the ecological balance. In November 2015, Thoothukudi city was flooded even though it received moderate rainfall. This was due to Kayathar and Ottapidaram taluks in the district receiving heavy rainfall. The rain water should have flowed through the water bodies in Ottapidaram Taluk, but as two windmill companies blocked all the waterways in Ottapidaram it resulted in massive flooding in Thoothukudi town.
Protestors have alleged that revenue officials had issued an order to the police officers to foil all protests against the windmill companies with the argument that they have deposited Rs 2 crore as corpus fund in the account of Block Development Officer (BDO), Ottapidaram.
The struggles of peasants and other effected people in this part of the state once again brings out the fact clearly that economic growth is dictated by the profit motive of capitalists and the government is unconcerned about the damage that this “development” has wrought on people’s lives and the environment.