Tuesday, Sep 23, 2003
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By S. Sundar
The Aruppukkottai and Kariapatti tahsildars and the Deputy Superintendents of Police of Virudhunagar, Sivakasi, Aruppukkottai and Sattur are camping in the village.
A huge posse of police, including a striking force, led by the ADSP, Gnanamani, descended on Chinnavallikulam in the Aruppukkottai block, where the residents of Valukkalotti in the Kariappatti block had assembled to stop Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board officials from laying pipelines. As the villagers stood their ground, to prevent drawal of water from two wells sunk at Chinnavallikulam, even after the Virudhunagar revenue divisional officer, P. Anbazhagan, and police officials held hour-long negotiations with the boisterous crowd, the police warned them to disperse or court arrest.
Though a few courted arrest, the policemen dragged many persons who offered resistance, to their vehicles. Many villagers, who ran from the spot, started throwing stones from a distance, but the police chased them away.
The villagers feared that large-scale drawal of water would affect the groundwater table and agricultural wells would go dry in due course.
However, official sources said they were being misled by ``vested interests'', who were commercially exploiting groundwater. Private tanker operators, who were selling at Virudhunagar town and surrounding areas about 40 tanker-loads of water drawn from agricultural wells in these villages, apprehended a drastic fall in their business, they said.
The TWAD Board started the Rs. 63-lakh drinking project, under the Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Mission, with 10 per cent public contribution, in April for the Rosalpatti panchayat comprising seven villages.
With the construction of seven overhead tanks and laying of feeder pipelines and distribution lines, 90 per cent of the works were completed. The beneficiary local body purchased two pieces of land, near the Chinnavallikulam irrigation `kanmai', and sunk two wells for a depth of 40 feet. However, as the villagers started raising objections last month, the laying of the main pipeline for two km could not be undertaken. As the talks with the villagers failed, the Villipathiri panchayat president, Balakrishnan, and a few others were taken into preventive custody yesterday.
The TWAD Board Executive Engineer, R. Rengraj, said the villagers' fear was misplaced, and less than 4 lakh litres of water would be drawn a day. Mr. Anbazhagan said the Rosalpatti panchayat had agreed to fill overhead tanks at Chinnavallikulam everyday, adding, ``in the event of water shortage in the future, priority would be given only to the latter''.
This is one of the projects the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, would inaugurate during her visit to Virudhunagar district next month.
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