Kerala Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy on Tuesday demanded convening of an all-party conference to sort out the problems related to land encroachment in Munnar caused by the Government’s failure evict the squatters. Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Chandy said that the all-party conference had become inevitable because of the current impasse in the eviction process. He alleged that the LDF was making all out efforts to protect encroached property owned by constituent parties and close relatives of party leaders using farmers, small traders and tribals as a shield. The Opposition parties had extended full support to the State Government right from the beginning when it launched evictions in Munnar. The Munnar eviction mission failed because the State Government lacked political will and not because of the lack of support from the Opposition, the media or the general public.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) was sponsoring large scale encroachments under its tribal outfit in Wayanad to conceal the Government’s failure to evict large encroachers in Munnar, he said. In reply to a question, Mr. Chandy explained that there was a vast difference between the Munnar and Wayanad issues. In Munnar, large land sharks had encroached upon Government property, while in Wayanad land had been occupied illegally by a group tribals who belong to the ruling party. The group have taken law into their hands with scant respect to the rule of law, equality and justice, he said. In both cases, it was for the Government to act in a transparent manner, upholding the rule of law. As things stand now, the Government had failed on every count.
He said the LDF Government’s concern for tribals and their right to land was bogus because it had failed to re-distribute land to landless tribals during the last four years it has been in power. The State Government had failed to identify even an inch of additional land to be given to the tribals, other than the stretches that had been identified and earmarked for distribution by the previous UDF government. Further, the Government had botched the distribution of the earmarked areas.
When asked what purpose an all-party meeting on Munnar would serve, Mr. Chandy said the Opposition had extended its full support to the eviction operations. It had serious differences of opinion on the methods adopted by the Government. “We want an opportunity to present our views and this can be done only around a conference table,” he said.
The Government had failed to observe caution while taking action against the Tata group. Ministers one after the other proclaimed that stern action would be taken against the Tatas, which had constructed a check-dam in one of its tea estates in Munnar in violation of the lease agreement. But the Advocate General took a different stand when the issue came up in the High Court, Mr. Chandy said. “We are prepared to extend our continued support to the eviction proceedings. But this should be done in a transparent manner, upholding the law and through legal and democratic means,” he said.
Responding to the row over an Assembly interpolation during his tenure as Chief Minister, Mr. Chandy said only one part of the reply was being bandied about. “If you read the entire set of questions, you would understand what position the Government had taken at that time,” he remarked.