Nearly a week after the Madras High Court quashed the entire land acquisition proceedings for the greenfield Chennai-Salem highway, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari Sunday expressed confidence in the project. The expressway project will be started after discussions with farmers who are opposing the acquisition of the lands, Gadkari said while addressing a rally in Salem.
"Today the matter is in the court and the Madras High Court has given a stay. But I am assuring you, whatever the rates for land acquisition we are giving, they are more. We have increased the rate, compared to today’s value, our rates are high," Gadkari was quoted as saying by PTI. Gadkari, who was addressing an election rally in support of AIADMK-led alliance said that the project is important for the development of the region.
The Madras HC had on Monday quashed the land acquisition proceedings for the proposed Rs 10,000 crore greenfield expressway project. A special bench of Justice T S Sivagnanam and Justice Bhavani Subbarayan passed the order allowing a batch of petitions by 35 landowners and PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss. The proposed Tamil Nadu-Salem highway was to pass through Kancheepuram, Tiruvannamalai, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri, a mostly agrarian region with a few industrial zones. Its estimated cost is Rs 9,106 crore, with a tentative Rs 415 crore for rehabilitation and resettlement.
Ordering a stay on the project, the court cited the failure of the state government in conducting a mandatory public hearing and not receiving prior environmental clearance from the Centre. It also based its judgment on major flaws in the project report submitted by a private consultant. The 277.300 km long, 8-lane highway project was proposed to connect Salem to Chennai. A feasibility study for the project pegged the total cost at Rs 9,106 crores and a tentative cost for rehabilitation and resettlement had been worked out to Rs 415 crores.
The project had received the centre’s clearance within in February 2018, in just a day, after a letter from Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami to Gadkari. Chief Minister Palaniswami had earlier refuted charges that the project was meant to benefit private miners. Palaniswami has said that it was a central government project and the state was assisting in its implementation.