When K.P Rajachandran Nair from Thrippadapuram visited the city Corporation office to secure a building permit a few weeks before Onam this year, he was in for a shock. He was refused a permit and asked to come back after a few days.

When this repeated on the second visit, he went digging for reasons and found that a large area in Attipra, where his land is located, and surrounding wards has been marked ‘Proposed IT-based enterprises’ in the draft master plan for Thiruvananthapuram published late last year.

“My family has been living in this land for many generations. No one asked our opinion before making those markings in the master plan. This is also against the promise given by the government during the land acquisition for the third phase of Technopark that no more land will be acquired in the area,” says Mr. Jayachandran Nair.

He approached the local residents’ association with the problem. When the association conducted an enquiry, many others voiced similar complaints. “Some of us have parted with our land many times over the past decades, for the university, Technopark, and for road widening. We are not against development. But it is hard to part with your last piece of land and livelihood. Even if we are given compensation, it is hard to start afresh. Also, how is it that the borders of this zone passes just clear of two apartment complexes located near our houses?” asks Ramlal, a resident of Kallingal.

1,500 families

Soon, the Attipra Janakeeya Samara Samithi was formed to take up the issue. The response they got from the authorities was that the area was not for immediate acquisition. “The whole area is densely populated. More than 1,500 families will be affected by the move. Now that the land has been marked thus, even if the people want to sell the land, no one will buy it. And without building permits, nothing can be done on the land. If the land is not for acquisition, they could have just marked it as residential area. The draft plan should have been discussed in the ward sabha and our objections should have been recorded,” says Vasumathi P. Nair, convener of the Samara Samithi.

In the master plan, this area is marked with a grid pattern over a pink coloured area. It lists these ‘Proposed IT based enterprises’ under a category called special use zones. The plan further says that ‘if the development envisaged does not start within seven years of sanctioning of the plan, the Corporation can release this land for a use decided in consultation with Chief Town Planner.’

‘Insufficient time’

Attipra ward councillor M.S. Sangeetha, who was criticised by local people at a meeting of the protest committee on Sunday, says that the councillors were given only four days to discuss the master plan at the ward sabha. “Since the document is in English, we had to go through each section and find things relevant for our wards and translate it. No discussion happened in any ward because of this. It will now be presented in the next ward sabha for discussion,” says Ms. Sangeetha.

However, M. Vasudevan, Senior Business Development Manager of Technopark, told The Hindu that land acquisition had been completed for the next phase of development. “This area has not been marked for acquisition. The problem arose because of the demarcation in the draft plan,” he says.

The Corporation council had unanimously decided on September 28 to give permission for buildings under 3,000 sq.ft in areas near institutions such as VSSC, Technopark, and Brahmos, where these problems cropped up. But the decision is yet to be implemented.

“It is impossible to give bulk permissions now as suggested by the council. Individual cases have to be cleared by the council. The permits will be issued in any case. But there will be delay. Such areas are not for acquisition, but are marked for the safety of these strategic installations,” says K.S. Jayachandrakumar, Executive Engineer (Projects) of the Corporation.

According to sources, a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister a few weeks ago had recommended all such cases to be cleared before December.