Resurvey leaves households at Lenin Nagar in limbo

A few twists and turns from the Armed Reserve Camp at Nandavanam will take one to Lenin Nagar, an area of 84 houses packed together in around half a hectare of land listed in official records as slum.

In 2008, the people living here were in for a shock. The families, even those resident for 50 years and more, suddenly found themselves branded as occupants of “Puramboke” land. The village office stopped collecting their land tax, leaving them wondering what the “title deeds” they have in their possession mean.

“We have been living here for the past 50 years. In 1981, when E.K. Nayanar was the Chief Minister, we got our title deeds. A resurvey was conducted here in 2008 after the law against filling of wetlands and paddy fields was passed. Since then, the village office has been refusing to accept our land tax as this entire area has been marked as government land in the new survey records,” N. Ramesh Kumar, a resident, says.

The officials say the area had a pond before the families settled here, and the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetlands Act, 2008, makes it technically an encroachment on a waterbody. Some of the houses are situated on lands exceeding the areas shown in the title deeds. The number of houses has increased from 54 in 1981 to 84 now, though the land area remains the same.

“When our children grew up, they dismantled the old houses and built separate houses in the same area,” K. Madhu, another resident, says.

Some settlements at Vignesh Nagar and Pound Kadavu are facing a similar problem.

Records unavailable

Rajesh Kumar, Village Officer, Thycaud, says his office is yet to receive the resurvey records.

“Once we get the sketches as per the resurvey, we can restart the collection of land tax,” he says.

G. Gopakumar, head surveyor of Thiruvananthapuram taluk, says only a ministerial-level decision can solve the issue as the Survey Department is bound by procedures.

“There is an existing issue with the pond. Also, in the resurvey, it was found that people who were given two cents were occupying more area. Some others were occupying areas less than what they were given. The extra land is due to the small passages between houses which are not part of the deed and is government land technically. Ideally, the title deeds for these small areas need to be given to them. But we do not have the powers to do it. It has to come through the Cabinet,” Mr. Gopakumar says.

The residents have raised the issue at various levels. In 2011, the City Corporation requested the government to take steps to solve the issue. Complaints were given on three separate occasions to the Chief Minister during his mass contact programme, but to no avail. A Lok Ayukta case is in progress now.

“We have not been able to take loans by pledging land or do anything else with it. All other records are fine and we are regularly paying corporation tax. But still we are encroachers technically,” Mr. Madhu says.