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LDF panel moots Vigilance probe into ‘aravana’ issue

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Vaikom Viswan says the probe will focus on the contract rather than any individual.
Vaikom Viswan says the probe will focus on the contract rather than any individual.

Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State committee of the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) has asked the government to hold a Vigilance investigation covering all aspects of the award of contract for supply of ‘aravana’ at Sabarimala.

Briefing reporters about the deliberations of the LDF committee here on Thursday, Front convener Vaikom Viswan said the Vigilance probe would focus on the contract rather than any individual. “If any person’s action needs to be looked into, the investigation would cover that as well,” he said when asked whether the investigation would cover Travancore Devaswom Board president C.K. Guptan as well.

The committee, he said, had not discussed Devaswom Minister G. Sudhakaran’s demand that the Devaswom Board members must resign in the light of the controversy over the ‘aravana’ contract. The committee did not think that the Board members would be able to influence the investigation if they remained in office when the probe was on.

‘No’ to Poabson request

Mr. Viswan said the LDF committee had decided not to accept the Poabson Group’s request for permission to operate Thoothampara Estate at Nelliampathy in Palakkad on extended lease in view of the organic farming activities it had undertaken there and its international supply commitments. The committee was of the view that it could honour its commitments using produce from the other estates it had in nearby areas.

The committee also felt that return of lease land to lessees after expiry of the lease period would set a bad precedent. The Forest Department would now take over the estate. Once it was done, any decision on the running of the estate, including the question whether it should be handed over to the Plantation Corporation of Kerala, would be subject to clearance from the Union government, he said.

Retail trade

The committee, he said, had also recommended to the government enactment of an appropriate legislation to prevent entry of retail monopolies into the State. The committee was aware of the Constitutional and other limitations for doing this, but it still wanted the government to make an effort in this direction so that monopolies did not colonise retail trade. There were several loopholes in the existing laws and these were being used by the monopolies to open shops here.

Mr. Viswan said the committee had suggested to the government grant of extension of service of persons who had joined the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) after working as employees in foreign liquor shops to 60 years so that they would have the minimum service necessary to claim pension and other benefits.

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