IDUKKI: “We were intimidated and brutally haunted by fake Vigilance cases, under the influence of the land-resort mafia. Mathai sir, (P M Mathai, former deputy tahsildar at Udumbanchola taluk office), one of the honest officers among us, was trapped in a bribery case.
Under mental stress, he suffered a massive stroke and is still bedridden,” A R Shiju, surveyor at the Revenue Department, who was in the team of former Devikulam Sub-Collector Sriram Venkitaraman, recalled his horrendous experience after participating in the eviction proceedings in Devikulam revenue division during 2007-11. “Mathai sir was trapped while only a couple of years was left for him to complete his service in the Revenue Department. It is heard he is still not getting his service pension,” Shiju said.
It was in total fear of retaliation from the land and resort mafia the four-member team, constituted for the eviction proceedings initiated by Sriram Venkitaraman, requested transfer to their previous offices, shortly after the removal of their protector from the post of subcollector.
Even as Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan directed the Idukki District Collector to revoke their transfer orders and bring them back at the Devikulam revenue divisional office, the team, comprising head clerk G Balachandran Pillai, clerks P K Soman, P K Shiju and surveyor Shiju are in fear of the repetition of torturing by higher officials and Vigilance during the period of the previous the UDF Government. Shiju is the only member of the special team constituted by former Idukki Collector Asok Kumar Singh, in 2007 to continue with the eviction proceedings launched by the Munnar special team led by former IAS officer K Suresh Kumar.
P M Mathai (junior superintendent), Anukumar, M Babu (deputy tahsildar), Raj Kumar, Jaison George (UD clerks), Nithin (LDC), and myself (surveyor) were picked up after various levels of screening, including verification by the Special Branch team. We didn’t face any problem till Asok sir was in office. Shortly after his removal, we started facing the heat of Vigilance cases,” Shiju said.
At first, a prominent encroacher in Chinnakkanal and a resort owner based in Thrissur lodged a petition with the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) raising separate allegations against the officers, including encroachment, private business and corruption. When the investigation failed to find any evidence in this regard, they moved the same petition to the then Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash, and the minister launched an investigation by the Revenue Intelligence Department. In the meantime, the team members submitted a petition to the Udumbanchola tahsildar stating there were attempts to trap them in a Vigilance case and their lives were in danger.
“Though the petition was forwarded to the district collector, no action was taken,” Shiju said.
Within three months, P M Mathai was arrested in an alleged bribery case in November, 2012. “The same mafia acted in connivance with a senior IPS officer. Following this, we submitted a petition to the then Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan and he directed the officers concerned to conduct an inquiry into our complaint, which also did not move further, forcing us to get away from being the target of land-resort mafia,” Shiju said.
While there are several officers, having links with land-resort-quarry mafia still remaining with the Revenue, Police and other departments, it appears no one can rule out the repetition of their ordeal.
Transfer of four officers put on hold
T’Puram: The transfer of four Revenue officers who were part of the special team formed by former Devikulam Sub- Collector Sriram Venkitaraman for evicting illegal land holdings has been put on hold. With Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan intervening in the transfer issue, the order has been freezed. Noting that the team has been constituted by the former Sub-Collector, Chandrasekharan said the officers have been asked to continue in the present position.
“They have been asked to continue till the new Sub-Collector assumes office,” he said. However, Revenue Department sources said the transfer has been put on hold so there would be a continuity in the eviction process that has now been taken up. If a new team is constituted now, it would have adverse impact on the eviction drive, they said.
It was in fear of retaliation from the land mafia the four-member team requested transfer to their previous offices