THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Conveniently ignoring the thousands of acres of government land illegally held by private individuals and institutions, the Revenue Department is gearing up for a mega bash, ‘Bhoomigeetham,’ in Kochi to raise money for buying private land for its ambitious ‘Zero Landless’ project. Despite retrieving government land, which may come to around 5,000 acres to 10,000 acres in each district as per revenue sources, the government has become a laughing stock with the mega show titled ‘Bhoomigeetham’ to be held first in Ernakulam on August 31 and later in every district headquarters. According to revenue sources, around 2,500 acres of public land that could be taken back are spread over Nedumangad, Palode and Ponmudi regions in T’Puram district and 4,000 acres in Nelliyampathy and Chittoor areas in Palakkad. In Munnar and Devikulam areas in Idukki, more than 5,000 acres are in the illegal possession of individuals. The same is with Wayanad, which has 4,000 acres in illegal possessions, according to unofficial records. Lands that have completed lease period and those that violated lease agreement, encroached lands, surplus lands that are not entangled in legal or other issues, Escheat lands (land which has no inheritors) and Bought-in-Land (authority of land that lies with various departments) could have been earmarked for providing titles deeds to the landless.
The government is conducting a mega show at a time when even surplus lands are being allotted in the name of private institutions. The officials maintain that the government does not have the courage to take back the land from major encroachers. The officials also alleged that the government, by not retrieving land in the illegal possession for such an ambitious project, was only helping land grabbers. Instead of buying land from private holders, the money collected from the mega shows could have been used for building houses for the landless, they said and added that it could have saved the face of the government.
However, Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash said that the mega show was conceived, aimed at the participation of the entire society in the ‘Zero Landless’ project. ‘’There can be many criticisms about conducting such a show. The money that is collected through the mega shows will be used for the ‘Zero Landless’ project,’’ he said. Noting that identifying land was the first priority of the government, Prakash said that only 10,000 acres of land was now needed as per the records for providing land to the applications received.