The situation in Kathiramangalam village in Thanjavur district, which witnessed a clash between police and locals protesting a “leak” in an ONGC pipeline, is “calm” and adequate security has been deployed, Chief Minister K Palaniswami said on Monday. Police used “minimum force” after their pleas to stone-pelting villagers to peacefully disperse were not heeded to, he said in response to a special call attention moved by the opposition DMK and Congress in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on the police lathicharge.
Palaniswami said ONGC has been pumping crude oil from some private land at Kathiramangalam based on a June 2001 mining lease and that “there have been no problems so far.” The ONGC had also moved equipment for taking up maintenance activity in May this year on an oil-well but locals had thought they were meant for methane extraction and staged a protest outside the ONGC office, he said.
A proposed methane extraction project on the Cauvery river bed has met with stiff resistance from locals. Following this, the state government held three stages of talks with locals and the ONGC, but they ended in “failure” since the people were not convinced with the company’s explanation, he said. Meanwhile, the ONGC, after informing the district administration, took up maintenance activity with police protection on June 2 but an anti-methane federation headed by one Prof Jeyaraman “tried to prevent” it and they were arrested, Palaniswami said.
Jeyaraman and others are now out on bail, he said, adding, locals staged a protest again on June 5 before police and revenue officials held talks with them following which they dispersed. On June 30, following information of a “leak” on an ONGC pipeline on Kathiramangalam-Panthanallur road, officials from the company, police and revenue departments rushed to the spot, Palaniswami said.
“But, about 150 villagers from Kathiramangalam assembled there, squatted on the road, prevented the ONGC officials and demanded that the district collector comes there,” he said. Not heeding to the pleas of the District Revenue Officer and police officials, they “set on fire” hay and some other material lying on the road near a gas pipe well, the chief minister said.
Some of them also hurled stones at cops, injuring three police personnel including an inspector, besides a local villager, he said, adding, a police vehicle also suffered damage. “Police used minimum force to disperse villagers after asking them to peacefully disperse, even as the villagers continued pelting stones and resorted to violence,” he said. A case has been filed in connection with the incident and ten persons have been arrested and remanded to judicial custody, Palaniswami said. “Presently, adequate security has been arranged at Kathiramangalam village and the situation is calm there,” he said.