Kerala Congress(M) leader K.M. Mani has cautioned against what he termed, the move to victimise settlers in Idukki district in the pretext of the anti-encroachment drive in Munnar.

Speaking to media persons here on Saturday, Mr. Mani said the need of the hour was to take stringent action against the land mafia who have grabbed prime government land in Munnar and to simultaneously initiate steps to protect the interests of the settler farmers in the district. Land usurped by the land mafia, whether big or small should be taken back without delay, he said.

According to him, the State government has done a big disservice to the settler farmers by delaying the issuance of the title deeds to the remaining farmers in the Cardamom Hill reserve (CHR). The former UDF government had started giving title deeds for 28,585 ha land in the CHR area. The Supreme Court had declared the issuance of the title deeds valid. However, the LDF government after coming to power, had discontinued with the distribution of title deeds in spite of the Supreme Court verdict, declaring the title deeds valid. “Now they have asked the farmers to return the already distributed title deeds so that they can issue fresh ones. This is nothing but a Thuglaquian step,” Mr. Mani quipped.

The Kerala Congress leader also wanted the State government to issue the Revenue Card for these farmers so that they could avail bank loans without submitting the land as collateral.

He wanted the State government to call an all-party meet to discuss the issue of the Special Rules formulated to protect the land coming under the CHR. As per the Special Rules, the land though with title deeds, was not transferable. With the Supreme Court validating the deeds, the time has come for amending the Special Rules so that the farmers could transfer the land, he said.

Reacting to a question, Mr. Mani alleged that the sincerity of the LDF government in their anti-encroachment drive in Munnar was doubtful. “The government had earlier taken the decision to validate all the fake title deeds issued just to protect their party offices.

How can one believe in the sincerity of such a government in this drive?” he asked.