As public opposition is emerging against Chennai-Salem Greenfield corridor, a pet project of Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, state police on Monday arrested leading environmental activist Piyush Manush for his alleged role in organising people against the project.
A day before, police arrested actor Mansoor Ali Khan for similar reasons for addressing people opposed to the Salem–Chennai project. Khan’s visit to Salem on May 3 was also connected to Manush.
Talking to The Indian Express, Baskar, DSP of Omalur near Salem, refused to reveal charges imposed on Manish. “We arrested him late evening today. I cannot reveal charges now. He is remanded,” he said. Baskar added that Manish was arrested in the same case in which Khan was also arrested on Sunday.
A senior officer in Salem said the arrests are being made on a direction from higher-ups to prevent certain groups from organising agitations and mobilising people against the highway project. “We do not know the identity of the complainant but it was taken up first based on a petition reached before DGP T K Rajendran in Chennai against Khan, Manish and their aides for their alleged speeches provoking and threatening the project,” the official said.
Arrests were made amidst opposition charges that the proposed 277.30 km long highway project will destroy 8,000 acres of farmland, besides reserved forests and hills. Opposition DMK had also raised serious corruption charges and filed a petition before the state anti-corruption wing against CM Palaniswami for awarding tenders of several multi-crore highway projects to his close relatives.
CM Palaniswami recently stated in the assembly that the project would require only 1,900 hectares of land compared to acquiring 2,400 hectares needed to widen the existing two highways — Chennai-Tindivanam-Salem route and Chennai-Kanchipuram-Vellore-Krishnagiri- Dharmapuri and Salem highways.