In a move that is set to bring some relief to the delta farmers, the Tamil Nadu Assembly passed the Tamil Nadu Protected Agricultural Zone Development Bill 2020 to protect the region from hazardous industries and to secure the livelihood of the farmers. Here are the key provisions of the bill:
• Prevents the setting up of new hazardous industries in Thanjavur, Tiruvarur, Nagapattinam and 5 blocks in Cuddalore and Pudukottai districts.
• Hazardous industries that have been barred are iron ore processing plants, zinc smelters, sponge iron plants, copper smelters, aluminium smelters, integrated steel plants, tanneries, exploration, drilling and extraction of oil and natural, coal bed methane, shale gas and other hydrocarbons and shipbreaking industries.
• A 30 member high powered committee called the Tamil Nadu Protected Agricultural Zone Authority (TNPAZA) headed by the Chief Minister will be the body advising the government on the measures needed to protect the zone and improve farming activities in the region.
• The authority will meet atleast twice a year to suggest measures for strengthening infrastructure and ensuring food security. It will recommend policies for development of agriculture and allied activities, irrigation, augmenting water resources , improving soil health, efficient use of solar energy, and flood management.
• The authority will take necessary steps to increase agriculture production and improve productivity along with facilitating the promotion of agro-based industries.
• Infrastructural developments like harbours, pipelines, telecommunication, power , roads, water supply and other utilities will not be affected
• Violators will face imprisonment between 6 months and 5 years along with a penalty of ₹10 lakh to ₹50 lakh. Officers in the rank of Revenue Divisional Officer and above the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police are empowered to search any premise if they have the reason to believe that there was a violation of rules.