‘Law on plantations’ conversion will benefit only big groups’
Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan on Saturday said that the Cabinet decision to regularise landfills prior to 2005, the government’s delay in publishing the land data bank, and the implementation of the law allowing conversion of 5 per cent of plantations for other purposes, amounted to sabotaging the land reforms laws.
Inaugurating the valedictory of the three-day national seminar on “Kerala Economy in Transition: Challenges in Governance” here, Mr. Achuthanandan said the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government had completed 90 per cent of the work on the data bank, but the United Democratic Front (UDF) government had now issued orders cancelling it, besides calling for collection of fresh data.
The new law on plantations’ conversion would be a windfall for the Tatas and Harrison Malayalam groups. According to the new law, the Tatas could convert 2,900 of the 58,741 acres of land in its possession, while Harrison Malayalam Company, which had over 2.5 lakh acres of land spread over two districts, could convert over 11,000 acres for real estate purposes, he said. He also wanted all plantations to be vested with the State on expiry of their lease period.
Big landlords who got concessions under the land reform laws stood to gain further under the new amendments. The real estate mafia had a vice-like grip on land required for agriculture, house, and environment protection. The State had been unable to locate land for distribution to tribal people. Lakhs of people were landless.
Observing that it was gross injustice to allow corporates like Kannan Devan and Harrison Malayalam more concessions, Mr. Achuthanandan said plantations were excess land once they ceased to be plantations. They were government land and belonged to the landless in the State. Attempts to sell leased land amounted to sabotaging the essence of the land reform laws, he said.
He said it was unfortunate that judicial interventions in land-related cases went against public interests. Allowing land sharks to hold thousands of acres of land for nominal lease rent was an injustice, which should be corrected. He warned of a popular struggle to secure the release of plantations on expiry of the lease period.
Planning Board Vice-chairman K.M. Chandrasekhar, who delivered the valedictory address, pointed out to the paradoxical situation in Kerala which witnessed fall in production but a rise in purchasing power. As part of the growth process, there was considerable pressure on infrastructure, water, energy and sanitation. The government had made clear its intention in the approach paper to the 12 Five Year Plan. Steps were being taken to upgrade skills that would provide employment to youths. The function, presided over by Kannur Vice-Chancellor Michael Tharakan, was attended by K. Raman Pillai and CPI assistant secretary Prakash Babu. It was organised by the C. Achutha Menon Study Centre and Library.