The Kerala government seems to be keen on granting fresh title deeds in and around Munnar though it is yet to implement the recommendations of its own committees against encroachments in the hill town.
Issue of title deeds without proper planning is likely to create more problems in this high-elevation area.
The government is still sitting on the report of Principal Secretary (Revenue) Nivedita P. Haran which recommended preparation of plans for Munnar and other areas.
The government has mooted a plan to take over the town, most of which is on land leased to Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company. The businesses, over which the company has a sway now, want titles to be issued for land on which their shops are situated. However, this may lead to further unplanned development of the town.
According to town planning experts, what is urgently needed is a master plan for the town. The government has the option of taking over the land and developing the town in a planned way, keeping the tourism potential in view. Infrastructure can be developed in phases and leased to traders and others.
Another issue is that of ‘poor encroachers’ who are being used as foot soldiers to prevent eviction of those who had cornered large chunks of lands around Munnar to develop resorts and plantations. Enquiries may show that most of these ‘poor’ applicants for land own property elsewhere in the State. However, there is the increasing problem of landlessness among retiring estate workers and those who have reached Munnar from other places to work in hotels, resorts and other establishments. According to the experts, government agencies such as the Kerala State Housing Board can step in to build eco-friendly houses for the new generation of employees and workers. The condition of estate lines needs to be improved as recommended by Ms. Haran.
Workers of Tamil origin
The workers of the estates, who are of Tamil origin, usually return to Tamil Nadu on their retirement. But those who have children working in Munnar stay on. The youth working in the resorts too may want to settle down with families. New settlements in Devikulam and other taluks have the potential to increase the population and change the demographics.
The government has been sitting on the implementation of the Act passed by the Assembly four years ago to regulate tourism in the important destination (The Kerala Tourism Conservation and Preservation of Areas Act).