Equipment moved in under cover of darkness; indefinite hartal from Monday

The Vilappil panchayat on the outskirts of Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday witnessed a fresh stand-off between the local people and the government, with the latter successfully moving in the last required piece of equipment for setting up a leachate treatment plant.

The police moved in the equipment at 2 a.m. The local people came to know about it only an hour later. Hundreds immediately assembled outside the plant and resorted to a sit-in at the panchayat square. The situation in the panchayat, which witnessed pitched battles between the public and the police several times over the last one year, is tense. The people have declared that they would not allow such moves anymore. The district is currently under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) enforced by the district administration last week.

Panchayat president Shobhana Kumari has begun an indefinite fast at the panchayat square. The Vilappilsala People’s Action Council has called for an indefinite hartal beginning Monday. All educational institutions and trade and commercial establishments would remain closed during the hartal period, they said, ruling out any discussion with the government on the issue.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Urban Affairs Minister Manjalamkuzhi Ali later defended the ‘secret’ movement of the equipment to the disputed waste treatment plant, stating that the government was duty-bound to implement the Kerala High Court’s verdict in the related case. The government and the Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation had tried several times to move in the equipment, but were forced to withdraw in the face of stiff resistance by the people.

The High Court had, recently, criticised the government’s failure to implement its order to move in the equipment. .

Mr. Chandy said the government had to resort to such action in order to avoid bloodshed. Mr. Ali said the equipment had to be moved in so as to avert an environmental disaster in the panchayat where around 2 lakh tonnes of solid waste remained unprocessed, posing threat of leachate seepage into the groundwater areas close to the now-defunct waste treatment plant.