Eleven families are awaiting title deeds for their tiny bits of land surrounded by illegal quarries operating without hassle
After setting up a shelter in a piece of land that he kept for over 25 years, Koyilandithodi Moosa, an unskilled manual labourer, wished to get a title deed for the same. He kept knocking on the doors of the authorities, including Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, from time to time. But the document did not come his way.
His tiny home at Madaambi near Thottumukkam on the slopes of the Western Ghats is surrounded by numerous quarries in one-km radius. Everyday, he wakes up to thunderous blasts from the illegal quarries.
Mr. Moosa’s family is, however, not alone in facing the adversities of having quarries nearby even as their wait for the title deed went on. There are 11 families in the neighbourhood waiting for title deeds for their land.
The tahsildar had his reason. He kept denying them the document on the grounds that the land with the resurvey number 172, Pannikkode desam, Kodiyathur village, under Kozhikode taluk, where they lived, was involved in a legal battle between the State government and one Rangaseshadri Iyyer.
According to documents, Mr. Iyyer took on lease around 2,250 acres of land on the slopes of Western Ghats at Mysoremala several decades ago from the erstwhile Presidency for “gold mining.” He, however, had to part with 732.6 acres in 1973 (TLB (K) 165/73) to the State Land Board from his total possession.
The State government has, from this, attached only 255 acres considering it as excess land so far. The rest is yet to be measured and attached to the government legally as per the documents. It is in this stretch of land, which falls in Kodiyathur panchayat, that Mr. Moosa and 10 others live, surrounded by the quarries.
Almost all of them had given memorandum to the Chief Minister’s Mass Contact programme in 2011, demanding title deeds for their land. However, they were denied by the tahsildar citing the court case that existed from 1994 (OS 479/94).
In the meanwhile, it was found that title deed was given for a three-acre land in the same area with the same resurvey number (172) — not far from Mr. Moosa’s house — to a quarry owner in 2009, substantiating document of which (collected via the RTI Act) is with the Prakriti Samrakshana Samithi here.
“This is not an isolated case,” says Manalil Mohanan, who, on behalf of the Kerala Sasthra Sahithya Parishad, recently led a ‘Haritha Yatra’ along the Western Ghats regions of the district.
“There are many quarries in the region, which functions on the encroached land without being questioned by any,” he said. “Most of these quarry owners have also managed to procure title deeds for the long stretch of encroached land while the same was denied to many poor people,” he added.
Taunts and threats
According to K. Balakrishnan, executive member of the Prakriti Samrakshana Samithi, these hilly regions are ruled by the quarry mafia. “Many quarry owners, who continue with rampant illegal mining activities, have also possessed fake documents for their land, bribing the officials,” said Mr. Balakrishnan, who had been attacked several times, once even critically, for questioning the illegal activities.
“It is the same force behind those who vehemently oppose the implementation of the Gadgil or the Kasturirangan report in the name of farmers,” G. Ajithkumar, another active member of the Samithi said. Mr. Moosa has not given up hope. “If the authorities can give title deeds for hectares of encroached land to illegal miners and quarry owners, why cannot they give us the document for our small bits of land where we have been living for more than 25 years?” he asks.
Mr. Moosa has already drafted a fresh memorandum to be submitted to the Chief Minister when he visits the city on Saturday for his mass-contact programme. “I will keep on trying till I die, for I have nowhere else to go,” he said.