Minister for Welfare of Backward and Scheduled Communities A.K. Balan has said that the government will provide land to around 15,000 tribal families under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 during the current year.

Briefing the media after a review meeting here on Saturday, Mr. Balan said that 97,759 acres were needed for distribution to the Adivasis and the government had received 33,173 applications. A decision would be taken on at least half of these applications this year.

‘Bhoomikeralam’

Survey was on under the ‘Bhoomikeralam’ scheme in Kollam, Idukki, Malappuram, Palakkad, Wayanad, Kozhikode and Kannur districts. It should be possible to begin distribution of land in these districts without further delay, the Minister added.

Mr. Balan said a meeting convened by Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran recently had decided expedite the survey.

The effort was to provide at least one acre to each Adivasi family. The government would construct houses costing a maximum of Rs.1.25 lakh under the EMS Housing Scheme for each of these families.

The Minister said steps would also be taken to make potable water available in all tribal colonies. As many as 1,016 colonies were yet to get potable water.

Efforts were on to supply water to all these colonies by getting the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) to coordinate the activities of various connected departments.

Mr. Balan came down heavily on AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s whistle-stop tour of Kerala and sought to know whether it was to visit “four women’s colleges and shake hands with the girls that he had come all the way from Delhi spending more than Rs.1.5 crore.”

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who had set an example by advising Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor to vacate from a five star hotel, should have barred her son also from undertaking such a costly trip, he said.

He wondered whether Mr. Gandhi would have been able to venture out at and eat out at night breaching the security brief if the law and order situation in Kerala was really bad.

A comparison

The Central government, which had refused to spare an aircraft to transport the bodies from the Thekkady boat accident site, had no qualms about spending crores of rupees for Mr. Gandhi’s trip and give him SPG cover, which was due only to the Prime Minister and former Prime Ministers, Mr. Balan pointed out.