Munnar: the absence of shame Wednesday, Feb 10 2010 


Munnar - a birds-eye view

Politicians have a thick hide. Nothing proves that better that their statements and behavior over Munnar encroachments. The Chief Minister continues to state that all encroachers would be evicted whoever they are.  But it is three years since his mission to evict the encroachers began.  Meanwhile the area under encroachments has only grown.

None is afraid of the Tatas, said Forest Minister Benoy Viswam two years ago. Revenue Minister K. P. Rajendran also said something similar about Malayalam plantations. But till today, they could not even collect a decent rent on the leases not to speak of violation of lease terms.

CPI leaders unabashedly say that they would stay in quarters given by the Kannan Devan Hill Produce Company as trade union leaders. The CPI (M) member of the Assembly challenged even party directive about returning the house he claims to have “rented” from the company.

To divert attention from the continuing encroachments in Munnar, the Cabinet subcommittee made quixotic attempts to break open electric fencing and gates put up by the company and demolish their check dams.  Tribals were mobilised in Wayanad to encroach upon allegedly “excess lands. (Well, it was the LDF government which failed to distribute lands to tribals during the past three and half years.)

Instead of evicting the encroachers in Munnar, the actual plan of the politicians is to issue more titles. Like the so called Raveendran pattayams, the politicians and the land mafia would reap the benefits. If at all, some poor get the land, that is not going to remain with them for long.

Chief Minister’s election stunt Wednesday, Oct 1 2008 

Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan at Munnar

Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan

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.

Munnar: Mission statements Tuesday, Nov 6 2007 

Kerala Chief Minister V. S. AchuthanandanRepeated statements by the Kerala Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan that the Munnar mission is on course do not appear convincing. (The mission was all about evicting encroachers and demolishing unauthorised constructions).

Even if the Chief Minister is sincere, he is not going to the official cooperation required to carry out the task. Officials who took bold stand against the mafia had been ditched.

Many had participated in mission Munnar reluctantly as they have to act also against their colleagues who had aided the encroachers. Now, they would try not to antagonise corrupt officials in their own departments and politicians outside.

They have burned their fingers while the Chief Minister has lost his image. He also seems to be losing his support within the party. Officials would not fail to notice that.

Related blog:

Munnar muddle