248 landless families camping at the disputed land
The Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Kerala Karshaka Sanghom, and the Kerala State Karshaka Thozhilali Union have decided not to call back their agitating workers from the Aranmula puncha (paddy land) and to continue their struggle against conversion of ecologically sensitive paddy land and wetland and against the move to evict people in the name of a private airport project at the disputed site.
As many as 248 landless families of the KSKTU-Karshaka Sanghom workers are camping in make-shift sheds at the disputed site as part of the agitation.
CPI(M) district secretary K. Ananthagopan and Karshaka Sanghom district president Omalloor Sankaran said that there was no question of retreating from the ongoing land struggle at Aranmula as it involved grave socio-environmental and legal issues.
Mr. Sankaran and Mr. Ananthagopan told The Hindu that the ongoing agitation at Aranmula was against the “State-sponsored anti-environment, anti-farming, and anti-people activities” taking place in the guise of a private airport project.
They alleged that Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had taken personal interest in supporting the land mafia as well as the controversial airport project, disregarding its far-reaching negative impacts on this agrarian belt, identified as the riparian floodplain areas of the Pampa.
“Mr. Chandy had attributed the UDF government’s decision to support the private airport project to the in-principle clearance given by the previous LDF government, sidelining the fact that the V.S. Achuthanandan government had given only a conditional clearance for the project, strictly complying with the laws of the land. Moreover, it is also a fact that setting up a private airport needs no clearance from the State government, provided the company has the requisite land in its possession,” Mr. Ananthagopan said.
He alleged that the State government was yet to identify the location for the private airport in which it has decided to take 10 per cent equity. The Chief Minister was yet to clarify whether the company possessed the land for the project, and on the validity of the transaction of the land, allegedly in the illegal possession of a private party to the company, he added.
Mr. Sankaran alleged that the Chief Minister was trying to regularise the illegal activities of the land mafia in Aranmula through the Cabinet decision to take 10 per cent equity in the airport project.
Mr. Sankaran said the Pathanamthitta Collector had already directed the tahsildar and the village officers to cancel the mutation of 232 acres of land sold by Abraham Kalamannil of the Kozhencherry-based Mount Zion Trust to the Chennai-based KGS Group. Moreover, the Taluk Land Board has declared the land as excess land and the Land Revenue Commissioner had recommended a Vigilance probe into the land deals that had taken place in the name of the airport project, he said.
In this context, Mr. Chandy’s support to the airport project and the Cabinet decision to take equity in the private project amply hinted at a bigger conspiracy that needed detailed probe by a credible agency, the CPI(M) leader said.
Mr. Sankaran who is also the Bhoo Samara Samiti district chairman said the samiti was for continuing the agitation and would join hands with various people’s action groups, irrespective of political differences, to check the “anti-people and the anti-nature activities of the government as well as the land mafia.