Chennai, March 25 (IANS) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa Monday said the government headed by her has decided that GAIL India should drop its plans of laying the gas pipeline through farm lands, and instead lay it along the highways.
Replying to the calling attention motion, notice for which was given by members of various political parties, Jayalalithaa said: "If the pipeline is laid along the national highways, gas will not only be available for industries and people, but also not affect the livelihood of farmers."
She said no right thinking person would want industrial growth at the cost of agriculture.
GAIL is laying pipelines in the fields in Coimbatore, Tiruppur, Erode, Namakkal, Salem, Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri, much against the wishes of farmers, while implementing its 312-km gas pipeline project that will go from Kochi through Salem to Bangalore.
Jayalalithaa said the government has decided that GAIL should drop its plans of laying the pipeline through farm lands. The company should take steps to lay the pipeline along the national highways without affecting farm lands.
She said GAIL should remove the already laid pipeline from the farmlands and restore the lands in their original condition to the farmers. The company should also pay farmers compensation as they were not able to plant fruit bearing trees and other crops due to conditions laid down by GAIL.
She said the government would inform the Madras High Court about its decisions on the matter.
Jayalalithaa said GAIL can take action to lay its pipeline along the national highways and should also take necessary steps to supply gas to Tamil Nadu.
The chief minister said cases filed against the farmers would be withdrawn, and her government is firm on the policy that "projects are for people and not people for the projects."
Jayalalithaa said GAIL, under the Petroleum and Minerals Pipeline Act, 1962, took steps to get the Right of Use of lands to the extent of 1,491 acres from 5,842 people, paying a compensation of 10 percent of the market value.
Last month, Jayalalithaa said she would take a decision on the gas pipeline project after ascertaining the views of farmers. Citing the Madras High Court's order of maintaining status quo on the pipeline project, she then ordered holding of public hearings.
At the public hearings, the farmers said the market value of their land would fall, and banks would not offer loans against farm lands through which pipelines traverse.
According to farmers, the gas pipeline project affects the small and marginal farmers in a major way, as they are prevented from planting fruit trees by GAIL.
Jayalalithaa said GAIL has not put forward any valid reason for not laying the pipeline along the highways.