PALAKKAD: The state government has yet again backtracked on its promise to appoint an IAS-rank officer at the helm of the Integrated Tribal Development Project (ITDP) office in Agali, Attappadi which coordinates the various departments implementing tribal welfare programmes. Consequently, Krishnaprakash, secretary, Attappadi Cooperative Farming Society (ACFS) under the Tribal Department - who is currently holding charge - has been appointed the project officer. The ITDP office has remained headless since July 10,2014 when the then project officer P V Radhakrishnan was shunted out by the politician-contractor lobby by influencing the ‘powers be’. Radhakrishnan later retired from Kasaragod.
“We had demanded an IAS-rank officer take charge of ITDP since there are over two dozen departments engaged in undertaking development and tribal welfare and only a civil service officer can coordinate their functioning and produce results. The ITDP also had as many as 16 tribal hostels, a model residential school and Karunya ashram which it has to manage. The funds of the farming societies are also routed through the ITDP. Large amounts of funds sanctioned under the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP) which needs to be spent before March 31 are more often left to lapse”, said K A Ramu, secretary, Thampu, an NGO working in Attappadi.
“When I took over in February 28, 2013, there was Rs 1.60 crore in the Tribal Development Fund which needed to be utilised by March 31, 2013. For many years, tenders were not floated and beneficiary committees not constituted for allotting works. The project officer had powers to allot the works to nominees suggested by the local bodies. This issue was taken up with the then District Collector and `1.60 crore of tribal funds were transferred to the account of the Nirmithi Kendra whose chairman was the District Collector and an IAS officer its member-secretary,” said Radhakrishnan.
“This had led to serious heartburn within the politician-- contractor lobby and the political parties threatened to pull out their elected representatives from the local bodies which forced the then government to transfer me within 15 months,” he said. Recently a counter report submitted (post the Madhu lynching incident) by Deputy Collector (Land Revenue) M K Anil Kumar before the Kerala High Court against petitioner P D Joseph, who had demanded an end to infant deaths and investigation into the use of adivasi funds in Attappadi, stated it has recommended the appointment of an IAS officer as ITDP chief.
According to Radhakrishnan, an IAS officer with magisterial powers will prove effective as the local politicians and contractors will not mess around with him. ITDP project officer Krishnaprakash said providing land to the Adivasis is a top priority and 640 acres of land have been identified for distribution to the Adivasis under the Forest Rights Act. The Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI) officers are expected to arrive here shortly for demarcating it. As for providing land for the landless Adivasis, the survey is under way, he said.