MADURAI: Though, the state government has tightened rules for conversion of cultivable agricultural land for residential, industrial and infrastructural purposes, such lands are still used for non-agricultural needs. Farmers here allege that powerful real estate groups have been turning cultivable areas into residential plots 'without obtaining permissions legally'.
According to existing rules district collectors have to personally visit the land before giving permission certifying that the particular area is no longer suitable for agriculture.
A large area of cultivable land adjacent to Sivarakottai-Karisalkalanpatti tank, 10 km away from Tirumangalam, along the four-way track to Virudhunagar, is a glaring example that attest to farmers' allegations. The land, which belongs to farmers, is currently being turned into housing plots. M Ramalingam, president of the Madurai district farmers welfare association, said, "The real estate group has illegally purchased a few acres of land out of the 200 acres where water is being fed by a tank. The land on which the illegal conversion has taken place belongs to more than 50 farmers."
"On one hand, the government has been spending crores of rupees to restore water bodies, but on the other hand some powerful groups have been making the government's effort meaningless. According to an RTI statement more than Rs 2.5 crore has been spent over the last few years to restore tanks and its sluice gates here. Even though PWD officials have forwarded our complaint to revenue and police officers, no action has been taken in this regard," Ramalingam said.
S Karupaiya, one of the farmers, whose land has been allegedly encroached, said, "They did not seek my permission before acquiring my land. We could not raise voice against them as they are powerful. The real estate group is interested in the area due to the proposed special economic zone nearby."