The Opposition walked out of the Assembly on Monday in protest against the government’s failure to evict the encroachers on government land in and around Munnar.
The walk out came at the end of a discussion on the encroachments and problems of the settlers in Idukki district taken up on the basis of an adjournment motion moved by Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan of Congress.
Leading the walk out, Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy said that the LDF government had failed to take any action against the encroachers over the past four years of LDF rule. The encroachers were all LDF men and none had been arrested.
Replying to the debate, Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan said that the government would take action demanded by the Opposition such as reclaiming government lands encroached upon by a private company and others, solving of the problems of settlers and allocation of land to tribals. However, no time limit could be specified for evicting the encroachers because of court cases.
The Chief Minister said that any omissions or erroneous inclusion of names in the report of the Collector on the encroachments filed before the High Court would be corrected after due examination. He took the contention of the Opposition Leader that no UDF leader was in the list of encroachers at its face value. However, the government would carefully examine whether any names had been omitted from the affidavit filed before the Court.
“If LDF leaders are among the encroachers, they will be the first to be evicted”, Mr. Achuthanandan said in reply to Mr. Chandy. The Opposition Leader, who demanded eviction of all the encroachers, had said earlier that if UDF leaders were involved, they could be the first to be evicted.
Revenue Minister K. P. Rajendran said that the government was considering take over of Munnar town from the control of the Kannan Devan Hills Plantation Company. The government had directed the local self governments under the Panchayat Raj Act to stop the Company from using its estate bungalows for tourism.
The Minister said that 35 criminal cases had been registered and 88 persons arrested for encroaching upon government land. The government proposed to issue titles to about 32500 settlers in Idukki district shortly. Titles had already been issued to nearly 14000 tribal families in the State.
Forest Minister Benoy Viswam said that that the UDF had misled the farmers in Idukki district, campaigning that the government proposed to notify three taluks in the district as ecologically fragile.
He emphasised that the government would enforce the Kerala Grants and Leases (Modification of Rights) Rules, covering the Kannan Devan and Harrisons Malayalam plantations.