Even as the State and gentral Governments are preparing to bring long-awaited relief to thousands of farmers in Kuttanad through the implementation of the Rs.1,840-crore-Kuttanad Package, indications are that the land lobby too is working overtime to grab as much land as possible at the earliest.
Kuttanad's scenic paddy fields have for long been eyed by the land lobby, with the aim of reclaiming these fields and constructing resorts, according to the Kuttanad Vikasana Samithi (KVS), a farmers' forum, that has been fighting for conservation of paddy fields and the Vembanad wetlands.
Thomas Peelianickal, executive director of the KVS, told The Hindu that the Samithi had brought to public attention in March this year that the 417-acre Metran Kayal had been bought by an international group, which was planning a multi-crore resort there. Though it has been four years since the business group bought the land from 153 farmers and organisations such as the KVS and Kottayam Nature Society had expressed concern, little has been done so far.
By now, it is not just Metran Kayal, but various other crucial paddy production regions of Kuttanad that have been bought by major groups on the sly, Fr. Peelianickal said, pointing out that KVS had found out that Ponnadan Kayal, Naalupankukayal, Marthandam Kayal, Thumbekayal, Maraan Kayal and M.N. Kayal were all either purchased or benami deals were on the verge of being signed.
Interestingly, a part of Rani Kayal, for which an outer bund construction at a cost of Rs.20 crore is included in the Kuttanad Package, too is being purchased by a major group, Fr. Peelianickal said.
With farmers, disenchanted with paltry returns from paddy cultivation, being easy prey for the land lobby, any delay in action could result
in the very purpose of the Kuttanad Package being lost, he cautioned.