Council says Revenue Department torpedoed Cabinet decision

The government has cancelled its scheduled ‘pattaya mela’ programme to distribute title deeds to around 5,000 settler farmers and landless families in Idukki district on Friday following a hartal call issued by an organisation called High Range Protection Council that day in the district.

Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash announced the decision at a press conference here on Thursday and said the programme would be held at a later date. “A section is creating obstacles. That section is trying to create panic among the people misinterpreting the order issued by the government to make the procedures for distributing title deeds transparent,” he said. The intentions of the people who had issued the call for hartal were mysterious. All the allegations raised against the Revenue Department by the council in connection with the title deed issue were baseless, he said.

“The main charge is that the Revenue Department has torpedoed the Cabinet decision to issue unconditional title deeds. This is against truth. In fact, what the department had done was to simplify the rules on title deeds. Accordingly, the government cancelled the amendment made to the rule in 2005 limiting the extent of land for which title deeds can be given to those occupying the land [to one acre]. As per the new order, land claimants can hold up to four acres of land. The order issued by the government in 2009 [banning transfer of such properties to those outside the family for 25 years from the date of issue of the title deed] too had been cancelled. The new order has removed this restriction on transfer of the property,” Mr. Prakash said.

He said the tragedy about the misunderstanding was that it had obstructed the government’s plan to distribute title deed for three cents of land each to 2,005 landless families in the district. In addition to these landless families, nearly 3,000 settler farmers too were to be given title deeds at the programme that should have turned into a festival in the district on Friday, the Minister said.

He said the United Democratic Front (UDF) government had issued 13,914 title deeds in Idukki district alone during the last two-and-a-half years, whereas, the Left Democratic Front (LDF), during its entire five-year term in the government just previously, had distributed only 6,245 title deeds in the district. “The council is torpedoing this good programme fully knowing all these statistics,” the Minister said.