THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In the midst of the election heat, the UDF government, led by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in Kerala has been hit hard by land scams. Many orders issued ahead of the Assembly elections were alleged to be issued with ‘suspect motive’ to help land mafia and dilute the land laws of the state.
The order permitting Karuna Estate to remit tax, reclamation of 387 acres of Methran Kayal backwater paddy fields at Kumarakom in Kottayam and 47 acres of paddy land at Kadamakuddy in Kochi and allotting to religious and communal organisations have all landed up in controversies.
With KPCC chief V M Sudheeran, Green Congress MLAs—an informal group of ecologically conscious politicians—and the Opposition coming out against the controversial orders, the government was forced to cancel many of the orders. This issue had also led to a feud within the Congress with many senior leaders disagreeing with the government. More than the Opposition, it was Sudheeran who had intervened in diluting land rules and reclaiming large tracts of wet land and paddy fields favouring private investors.
■ March 1: Permitted to remit land tax for 833 acres
■ Later, order to be amended
The government, in its March 1 order, permitted Karuna Estate to remit land tax for 833 acres of land. The order was issued against the High Court direction that no decision should be taken without its consent. It was also said that the order was issued overlooking the report of Land Board Secretary Vishwas Mehta, who had stated that the land belonged to the government. Under pressure, the government decided to amend the order.
METHRAN KAYAL AND
■ March 4: Reclamation order of 387 acres in Kottayam and 47 acres at Kadamakkudy
■ March 9: Order withdrawn
The order for reclamation of 387 acres of Methran Kayal in Kottayam and 47 acres of paddy land at Kadamakkudy (Kochi) was another row that was put to hold after opposition. The March 4 order, withdrawn on March 9, regarding Methran Kayal backwaters flouted paddy field and watershed protection rules. The land at Kadamakudy was for building a multi-specialty hospital, medical research centre, apartments, Ayurveda spa, etc.
■ Feb 3: Ceiling limit exempted, with right to reclaim 150.73 acres
■ CM adamant, order will not be withdrawn.
The February 3 order exempted land ceiling limit for the Chempu Tourism project, giving right to reclaim 150.73 acres of paddy field in Chempu Village in Vaikom (Kottayam). Despite protest, the CM was adamant that the order will not be withdrawn.
LAND TO GODMAN
■ March 2: Given 95.44 acres in Paravur, 32.41 acres in Thrissur
■ March 23: Order withdran
In its March 2 order, the government handed over 95.44 acres in Puthenvelikkara in Paravur (Ernakulam) and 32.41 acres of land in Madathumpadi in Kodungallur taluk (Thrissur) to a group involving godman Santosh Madhavan. Ceiling limit for the land too was exempted. The order was withdrawn on March 23. The issue took another turn with the Muvattupuzha vigilance court ordering a quick verification against Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash.
■ Jan 29: Nod to give back 50 per cent of the paddy fields with right to transform
■ Order not withdrawn
The nod to return 50 per cent of the paddy fields with the right to transform to the individuals from whom land was acquired at Kodimatha in Kottayam district also landed up in controversy. The January 29 order has not been withdrawn till now.
LAND TO RELIGIOUS
■ 10 acres for free to the Church and community organisations
■ Most of the orders do not specify reasons
The government landed in the soup for assigning land to the Church and community organisations, especially in Konni, the constituency of Prakash. About 10 acres were given for free. Though Kerala Land Assignment Rules states the land can be assigned only if it is for public interest, most of the orders do not specify the reasons.