The Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan is once again in Munnar. This time, he is less formidable, and again wants to play to the gallery.
Faced with opposition from within his party and the CPI, he had been doing nothing about encroachments in Munnar for the past one and a half years. Now, the Chief Minister and the CPI are presenting a picture of cohesion. The CPI (M) also appears to have allowed him to go ahead with his antics.
The secret: the coming Lok Sabaha elections. Both the CPI and CPI (M) do not mind if the Chief Minister’s antics would bring some votes. The local leaders of the Left parties will keep their political territory safe by speaking against Mr. Achuthanandan. Things can be “pushed back to normal” once the elections are over. The Chief Minister is not going to rebel.
Mr. Achuthanandan has now declared some areas falling between the Tata Tea (now Kannan Devan Tea Company) estates at Chokkanad would be taken over and distributed to the landless. His populist plans to distribute the land to landless will lead to fragmentation and change in land use pattern around Munnar, in the absence of a proper plan.
Munnar will now face further degradation of its environment:
The impression that some of the land that lay in between the estates of Tata Tea belonged to the company prevented encroachments and fragmentation for decades. (This is not to deny or confirm the allegation that the company is in possession of government land as reported by Legislature committees or argue against resumption of government lands. See previous posts. )
Even if the government does not distribute the resumed land to the landless, they would be encroached upon. There would also be demands for using the land for various “public purposes”. The only other option is to turn over the plantations and forest areas to the Forest Department. However, Mr. Achuthanandan himself has announced that the 90 acres at Chokkanad would be distributed to the landless. Most of these landless are going to be party men as had happened in the two previous title distribution melas in Munnar.
In this regard, it should be noted that the government made no effort during the past year to draw up the master plan recommended by Principal Secretary (Revenue) Nivedita P. Haran in her report on the encroachments in and around Munnar. Proper mechanism to monitor land use should be put in place before any of the resumed lands are distributed.