Chennai: Taking a virtually opposite stand from his contemporary Rajinikanth, actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan has said projects like the Chennai-Salem expressway should not be "forced" on people.
Speaking to reporters at the airport here on Wednesday, the Makkal Needhi Maiam president sought to know whether there was no alternative route to reach Salem. "Did the people say their life will be derailed without the eight-lane project? Or is there no alternative route to reach Salem?" he said.
On Rajinikanth's recent statement supporting the Rs 10,000 crore-project, which has been opposed by some quarters especially farmers, Haasan said, "People should first be consulted. Many political leaders have expressed their opposition to the project. People cannot be compelled to accept the project".
On Sunday, Rajinikanth had said such big projects would lead to development of the country and result in creation of jobs. He had also wanted the government to adequately compensate people who would lose their land because of the project.
Many political parties have backed the protesters with the main opposition party - DMK - suggesting that an alternative route be chosen by the government. Meanwhile, the AIADMK-led Tamil Nadu government has been insisting that it would adequately compensate the land owners.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami told reporters at Mettur in Salem on Thursday that nobody was compelling the people to accept the project.
"About 90 per cent of the land acquisition work is on and a majority of the landowners have come forward, saying they have no problem with parting with their land," he said.
A few protests against the project have been blown out of proportion by the media. the minister said.
"Some people were fuelling the protests out of political vendetta. These people do not support growth. They just want to oppose the government," Palaniswami said.
"There is no haste in implementing the project," he said, adding that it would not only benefit Salem, but also neighbouring districts of Namakkal, Karur and Coimbatore. Travellers proceeding to Kerala will also benefit from it because the distance would be reduced, the chief minister said, adding such mega road projects were required to boost industrialisation.
Citing reports, Palaniswami added that fishermen opposed to the Sterlite copper smelter unit in Tuticorin had now been saying they were 'brain-washed' by some people against the unit. The anti-Sterlite protest on May 22 ended in violence, with police firing claiming 13 lives.