Is the land mafia conspiring to get large tracts of paddy fields filled up and converted in the ecologically sensitive Kuttanad using the Chief Minister’s mass contact programme as a cover?

The peculiar nature of around 6,000 applications out of the total 27,000-plus applications that have so far come in for consideration during the mass contact programme to be held at the EMS Stadium here on December 22 indicate a conspiracy, or at least an attempt at something similar.

The curious trend of these applications was first noticed in the Kuttanad Taluk Office and then in the Collectorate. There are reports of similar trends in the Karthikapally Taluk Office as well, though the exact numbers are not yet available. There are 3,903 applications submitted in the Kuttanad Taluk Office and about 2,000 in the Collectorate, all of which are from adjacent regions in Kuttanad and all which have the same request. More are coming in every day.

Submitted in a printed format with serial numbers, which itself is strange since applications to the CM’s contact programme can be handwritten on plain white paper, all the 6,000 applications have the same request – permission and financial assistance to fill up land with mud.

Officials point out that there is no existing scheme that allows filling up of land with mud, particularly in Kuttanad where reclamation of paddy fields and conversion of the same for construction purposes is strictly banned, though there is conditional exception given to plots less than five cents. The applications, officials told The Hindu, do not specify whether the land is a paddy field, but all the applications are for plots below 10 cents each.

“Since it is not specified whether it is a paddy field or not, and because many of these plots have successive survey numbers, and because there is no existing scheme that entertains such a request, there is clearly something strange about these applications,” a senior official said.

As of now, officials are in a fix on what to do about the applications, since a scrutiny of all these applications is a cumbersome task. A large number of applications submitted in the Kuttanad taluk office were brought by a single person too, according to an official.

“Since there is no existing scheme, and scrutiny of such a large number of applications is near impossible, the aim of such an attempt could be to pressurise the Government into thinking of a new scheme, which can then be misused to fill up paddy fields,” senior officials caution.