The UDF Government landed in trouble on Tuesday with Forest Minister K B Ganesh Kumar and government chief whip P C George adopting conflicting stands on the takeover of estates in Nelliampathy belt, the lease period of which has ended.
The latter even went to the extent of charging that an adjournment motion for which notice was given by the V Chenthamarakshan, CPM MLA, was sponsored by the minister.
“Minister Ganesh Kumar has insulted me and the UDF”, P C George said, while addressing mediapersons later. The minister turned against George in the Assembly, when the latter stated that Chenthamarakshan had told him that the minister was not inclined to give a positive hearing to the woes of workers of Cherunelli estate in Nellimapathy, which has been mired in a controversy for quite some time.
While George was trying to explain his points and counter the allegation of the Opposition that he had tried to intervene in favour of estate owners, Ganesh Kumar turned the tables on George when he made the reply.
He said that as an MLA, he would oblige with the stand of P C George but as a minister, he would only abide by the Chief Minister’s directive.
He also stated that he was not aware of a UDF sub-committee on Nellimapathy issues, as claimed by George. The minister got support from many LDF members including Chenthamarakshan, infuriating George. Though Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Finance Minister K M Mani made a weak attempt to rescue George and avoid further embarrassment,it didn’t work out. After registering his strong protest on the minister’s stance by walking up to the Chandy and Mani, P C George headed to the media room and unleashed a barrage of criticism against Ganesh Kumar at a press conference.
“The minister will come to know whether the UDF is here in the state and if he had become a minister under its tutelage. Can a minister bluff in the manner Ganesh did by making a false statement on a UDF sub-committee?” he asked.
“He will come to know within two days whether the UDF is here. Otherwise, I’ll stop my job,” he thundered.
“As an MLA, I had only taken up the pleas of five to six persons in my constituency who owns portions of the Cherunelli estate. The 278- acre Cherunelli estate is owned by 36 farmers, with holdings ranging from one to a maximum of 13 acres. When the EFL Act was enforced in 2002, the estate was suo motu notified for takeover. Farmers had no choice but to approach courts since laws were framed on the basis of the Act only in 2007. They had continued to appeal to the government and may of them had since died. The legal heirs of the deceased had continued their pleas with the original pleas as enclosures”, George said.
“There is no objection to a government takeover. What had been pleaded is that those affected being marginal farmers, they should be entitled for compensation as per S.4 of the EFL Act. Instead, the takeover was piloted with S.3, which bars compensation. Don’t I have the right to make a plea in behalf of marginal farmers?
“I haven’t asked for any leniency for large estate owners. Will Ganesh Kumar show the courage to touch Harrisons Malayalam Ltd, which is illegally holding vast tracts of leased land?” George asked.
Later, George filed a written complaint against the minister with Chandy and Mani. The issued rocked the Assembly later during discussions also, with the minister maintaining that the comments of George needn’t be taken seriously.
“George needn’t teach me what is the UDF. He should think when he had come to the UDF,” Ganesh retorted.