KOTTAYAM: Though Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s sudden move to press ahead with the project for an international airport in Erumeli has been widely hailed, the initiative is likely to become a vexatious issue for the government, given the status of the land reportedly identified for the project.
According to several persons, including Poonjar MLA P C George and BJP state chief Kummanam Rajasekharan, the proposed site of the airport is in Cheruvally estate, situated in Erumeli and Manimala villages in Kanjirappally taluk and owned by Bishop K P Yohannan’s Believers’ Church.
Since the ownership of the land is mired in a row, with a case against the order to seize the land, it will not be a cakewalk for the government. The government’s sudden interest has led to a great deal of suspicion among several persons and outfits, including the BJP.
Rony K Baby, chairman of agitation council at the TR and T Estate, Kanjirappally, told Express that massive corruption and move to regularise the illegal land of Believers’ church, allegedly prompted the move.
“Former Ernakulam District Collector Dr M G Rajamanickam, who was appointed as the Special Officer of the government to confiscate the illegal and excess estate lands under the custody of various companies, had issued an order in May, 2015, confiscating the 2,268 acre of land from Believers’ Church. However, the Church approached the HC.
While the government has a real chance of winning the case against Believers’ Church, the government is making an attempt to acquire the land from the Church, allegedly offering them 25 per cent share in the airport project. That means, government will be regularising possession of land to the company. What is alarming is that this will affect the entire confiscation( of illegally held lands) process across the state,” he said. Earlier, Kummanam warned that the BJP would not allow the government to acquire the land for money, as the proposed land had already been declared Revenue land.
P C George, though, has taken a safe stand by demanding that the government acquire the land from Believers’ Church. “The major advantage is that airport can be constructed in Erumeli without any environmental impact. Moreover, those arriving from abroad can easily reach Idukki, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam,” he said.