During election, Moolampilly evictees hint at rejecting those who left them in lurch
Death was, in a sense, a relief to Mathai. It set him free of a five-year-long ordeal.
When the octogenarian died at a rented house last October, it was as much owing to the dreadful disease of cancer as it was due to the pain of having to live the life of a destitute despite having once owned ten cents and a house.
He was among the 316 families evicted from their dwellings in seven villages to make way for the rail and road connectivity of Vallarpadam International Container Transhipment Terminal. More than six years down the line, just 28 of those families have been rehabilitated while the rest are left to live in temporary sheds or rented facilities hoping against hope that the rehabilitation package — named after the victims of forceful eviction at Moolamppily on the morning of February 6, 2008 — would be honoured some day. Eighteen members of these families have died since then, including two who committed suicide after failing to hang on to that slender hope.
The district witnessed three rounds of elections to Parliament, local bodies and the Assembly ever since. Tragically, in another election season dominated by development and growth, the plight of these people who gave up their all for that very objective seems to have been evicted even from the collective conscience of society.
The package offered four cents apiece to each family spread over seven villages complete with basic amenities, compensation for the land and building lost to acquisition, and job to a member in each family depending on their educational qualification when the container terminal project got commissioned.
“Families rehabilitated in four villages received power and water connectivity while the road is in a bad shape. Basic amenities have not been readied in the remaining rehabilitation sites. Most of these sites are susceptible to water-logging owing to their reclaimed nature, leaving no scope for drinking water even after digging bore wells,” Francis Kalathungal, general convener, coordination committee for the displaced, told The Hindu.
More significantly, financial institutions decline to grant loans on the title deeds of the rehabilitation land citing the clause that it cannot be transferred for 25 years, leaving construction of house a distant dream. The State government’s promise to intervene to rectify this had gone unhonoured.
Another clause in the package that rent would be provided till basic amenities were readied on rehabilitation site had also proved an empty promise along with the promise to reimburse 12 per cent deducted from the compensation amount as Central Income Tax.
“The United Democratic Front government showed some interest in implementing the package soon after it had come to power before they too lost interest. The package would have been implemented long before had there been strong political will,” Mr. Kalathungal said.
The coordination committee has not called for an election boycott but hinted at rejecting those who left them in the lurch.