Forty families at Kadakampally village are unable to pay land tax

A small gated community of 30 middle-class families at Kadakampally here has found itself at the centre of a land-scam-related political controversy allegedly involving the relatives of a former gunman of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Mediapersons besieged the hillside, overlooking an expanse of coconut groves and dotted with modern upper class homes, for the second consecutive day on Sunday. They were there to cover the visit of former Home Minister and Deputy Leader of the Opposition Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and former Legislative Assembly Speaker M. Vijayakumar to the area.

The residents played host to the visitors, as they did on Saturday for Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, at the colony’s club house where they aired their grievances collectively.

In June this year, Mariamma Varghese, a resident, went to the local village office to pay her land tax. The Revenue officers said they were at a loss to accept the basic tax as “her land,” at least on the local land tax register, belonged to someone else. Ms. Varghese was dismayed. She had been paying tax for the property, without any official hassle, since 2005, the year the colony came into existence. Soon, other residents found themselves in the same predicament.

Without the latest land tax remittance receipts, the residents said, they could not avail themselves of a range of government services. Sabir, for one, had bought land in the colony in 2005. This year, he constructed a house there. He needed to remit his land tax dues to get the “TC number” from the Municipal Corporation. Without it, he would not be able to avail himself of a water or power connection. However, local Revenue officials would not allow him to remit the tax on the ground that “his land” belonged to someone else.

The residents formed a collective to address the issue and petitioned the District Collector. However, their hearing was postponed owing to the visit of Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

Soon, some persons claiming to be members of a “Varkala-based business group” visited the locality and issued veiled threats, Mr. Sabir said. They claimed the entire land was theirs, bequeathed to them by their forefathers. “They said we could live here if we did not make any issues,” Mr. Sabir told The Hindu in the presence of other residents. Another resident said “what the land mafia actually wanted was the 2.5-acre vacant land abutting Valley View.”

As many as 10 low-income group families whose forefathers lived on the land as serfs faced the same dilemma. The landlord had given them property rights, an estimated 5 cents each, before he sold the nearly 6 acre plot to the builder who developed the gated community. One of them, Leela, 60, said local revenue officials were not accepting her land tax on the same grounds. Some of these families were eligible for subsidised water and power connections, for which land tax receipts were a must.

The residents were against politicising their dilemma or using it as a weapon against the government. They want to stay out of the limelight and fear the value of their land would dip because of the controversy. Most felt swindled and there were no checks in place at the government level to prevent such “frauds” from happening.

The State Police Crime Branch is investigating the scam, which involved a total of 45 acres in Kadakampally area. Additional Director General of Police Vinson M. Paul is heading it.

More In: Kerala | National