THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government’s move to denotify the Kurinjimala Wildlife sanctuary at Kottakambur village in Idukki district is aimed at helping the land mafia involving local political leaders, say environmentalists.The greens point out that the government’s move to alter the boundary of the Kurinjimala sanctuary with the aim of reducing its area is to help the land mafia which had occupied land on the strength of bogus title deeds.
Under section 18 and 26 of the Wildlife Protection Act-1972, the boundaries of the sanctuary cannot be altered. But efforts are on to give legal ratification to bogus pattayams, including those of Idukki MP Joice George and other political leaders.“As per the basic tax records and resurvey documents, the Kottakambur land belongs to the Revenue Department. But in the past few years, there were efforts to forge title deeds in the name of landless Scheduled Caste people, many of whom were totally unaware of the existence of title deeds in their name.
As far as the SC people were concerned, the titles existed only on paper. Later documents giving power of attorney to powerful people were fabricated for hundreds of acres and the ownership was changed. But when the title holders were asked to present their case for legal verification, partymen prevented officials from holding sittings,” said M N Jayachandran, state chairman of the Prakruthi Samrakashana Vedi.
He said creation of fabricated documents in the name of Scheduled Caste people and grabbing their land are likely to attract prosecution under various sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act-1989.
After the district administration cancelled the titles in the name of MP Joice George and others, the state government is trying to redefine the boundaries of the notified sanctuary, he said. Environmentalists said, once the notification is issued to declare a particular area as sanctuary it will come into effect from the very same date and it cannot be altered without the concurrence of the Central Government and the National Wildlife Board. If that is the case, the state government cannot easily change the status of the sanctuary.
Jayachandran said the Idukki Wildlife Warden has no powers to give a report saying that there was private land inside the sanctuary. It is for the settlement officer (Devikulam Sub Collector) to issue such a report, if any.There were no title holders in the Kottakambur village as per the reserve records of 1974-79 period. Had there been any encroachers in that area having title deeds, their age as on 1970 should be examined, he said.
Forest Department officials on condition of anonymity told Express the state government cannot change the boundary of the sanctuary as the notification declaring the sanctuary had already been issued. They said the Central Government and the National Wildlife Board will have to take a call on the issue. However, the Forest Department officials did not comment on the Idukki Wildlife Warden’s controversial report.