The visit of Medha Patkar, the convenor of National Alliance of People’s Movements, to Manapakkam village near the Meenambakkam airport on Wednesday was a morale booster for the people of five villages, fighting to get their land back. This land was taken over by the government for airport expansion, a few years ago. Their hopes, as they began construction of houses with bank loans and other borrowings, of completing construction and living in their dream homes were revived when Patkar exhorted them to not give up their struggle. If the government did not return the land, the people should go and occupy their own lands, she said, adding that she was planning to meet the Chief Secretary in this regard.
Earlier, on January 2, 2009, when Medha Patkar met the then Chief Secretary K S Sripathi, he had promised action considering the report submitted by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation). But, when the report came out, Sripathi no longer held the same post and the matter stalled.
Patkar — after visiting the area where people are expecting their land to be denotified as the expansion plan has been dropped — said that this was a case in which not only the poor but even the middle class have been affected. “These lands were acquired under the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Act. But when the Airports Authority of India (AAI) itself has communicated to the government that the land can be denotified, it is the duty of the state to return the land to the people,” she said.
The stories of most of the 300 people who lost their land are like that of Vijaya. She bought the plot in 2007 with her savings and a loan, for which she paid `1,000 a month as EMI for eight years. After construction had begun, the state government decided to acquire the lands for airport expansion.
People from Manapakkam, Gerugambakkam, Tharapakkam, Kolapakkam and Kovur are still fighting it out under the banner of United People’s Forum For Survival (UPFFS).The organisation’s secretary Brindha said: “It is now 17 months since AAI told the State to denotify these lands. We pray that the government expedites a solution and returns our land immediately.”