The statements by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Thursday and Friday on the proposed private international airport project at Aranmula have created confusion and invited strong protest among the villagers as they were ignorant of the notification of 2,500 acres.
“The statements by the Chief Minister have substantiated our earlier stand that the company was trying to grab 500 hectares in place of 500 acres as notified by the LDF government. We had clearly marked the area coming under the notified survey numbers and briefed the same to the Chief Minister long ago. But there was no action.
However, the recent statements of Chief Minister raise doubts about the functioning of his ‘transparent office’,” said P Induchoodan, convener, Aranmula Palliyoda Pallivillakku Samrakshna Samity.
The extraordinary gazette notification by the Industries Department of the LDF government on February 24, 2011, just four days before the election notification, had declared “approximately 500 acres of land specified in the schedule below I at Aranmula, Mallappuzhassery and Kidangannoor villages in Pathanamthitta district, to be an industrial area of the state and constitute a single window clearance board for the said area to be known as Greenfield Airport, Aranmula Single Window Clearance Board”.
“A denotification as stated by the Chief Minister is not legally valid and if the government wants to initiate an action, all it could do is to cancel the earlier notification and issue a new notification. Then another serious question arises, whether an airport is needed for the people of Aranamula. The Chief Minister who swears on the mass contact programme should consider the sentiments of the people of Aranamula, as they are also citizens of this state,” said Mullakkara Ratnakaran, former minister and a member of the Legislative Committee on Environment which submitted a report of the environmental issues raised by the local population in connection with the project.
He said the government has acted against the spirit of democracy by concealing the Cabinet discussion and even the Chief Minister is well aware of the perilous consequence of regularisation of converted paddy fields and wetlands prior to January 1, 2005, which is evident from the justification of the delay in making the decision into public.
“The whole idea is to cool off the protestors and nothing else. It looked as if the Chief Minister has cancelled something which even the promoters did not demand,” Said Kummanam Rajasekharan, patron of the Aranmula Heritage Village Protection council. He ridiculed the claims of the airport promoters that the project would be beneficial to the Sabarimala pilgrims.
“If they are so much bent on an airport for the pilgrims, they can make it at nearby Chengara or Cheruvally at the cost of some rubber trees and without evicting anybody from their land,” he said.