THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Was Cheruvally estate selected much earlier for the Sabarimala Airport or was it recently identified by the four-member panel headed by the Revenue Secretary? Though the government had entrusted a three-member team to identify the site for the airport this year, the Believers Church is learned to have known about it much earlier.
The Believers Church, possessing the estate, had submitted before the High Court in 2016 there was a proposal by the state government to establish an airport nearby. The submission is mentioned in the order (which is with Express) by the then Chief Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar in the case related to removing trees in Cheruvally estate for drawing a power line from Kanjirappally to the proposed Erumely sub station.
Soon after the government announced the decision, the Congress and BJP came out with strong protests. Some Congress leaders alleged there was an understanding for choosing Cheruvally estate.
They raised the million-dollar question - even before a committee was constituted to identify the land, how could the Believers Church know about it and mention it in 2016? Former Revenue Minister and Congress leader Adoor Prakash said the decision to choose Cheruvally estate for the proposed project was steeped in mystery.
“How could the Church come to the conclusion an airport was going to come up near the estate when the committee was not yet constituted to identify the site?” he asked.
He also mentioned a person from Kannur had approached him in 2016 regarding a study on the proposed airport in the area where the estate is located. “I had then asked him who had authorised him to hold the study. But he did not give a specific answer and this was raised in the Assembly. However, a reply is yet to be received,” said Prakash.
He said a lot of mystery was behind the deal. Politicians and officials also allege the deal was struck with the Church even before the committee was constituted. If that was not the case, how did the Church know an airport was coming up in the locality in 2016 itself, they asked. They also said the decision to acquire land from the estate was a conspiracy to legitimise the land grab by a plantation major.
Believers Church PRO Fr Sijo Panthappallil said all political leaders, including the CPM, Congress and the BJP, had discussed with them regarding the airport project. “Political leaders have been holding discussions with us even from 2015. On that basis the submission was made in the High Court,” he said.
Stating they were open for any discussion, he claimed the government had not officially communicated the proposal to take over Cheruvally estate for the proposed airport till date. “We are open for discussions. But we want to protect our land as its ownership belongs to us. We have paid money in 2005 for the land and it was registered. The government had allowed the registration,” he said.