The Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) on Thursday staged a walk out in the Assembly to protest against the government decision to go ahead with the Aranmula airport project disregarding the environmental consequences and violation of laws.
The government launched a scathing attack on the LDF, accusing it of playing a double game on the issue, approving the project while in power and opposing it while in the Opposition.
Seeking leave for an adjournment in the House, former Agriculture Minister Mullakkara Ratnakaran (CPI) said the government had not secured the mandatory clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests before deciding to pick up 10 per cent stakes in the airport project. He alleged that the government was playing second fiddle to the Chennai-based KGS Group, the project promoters.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the LDF government under V.S. Achuthanandan had cleared the grounds for the project in 2011. Defending the decision to pick up stakes in the project, he said the airport would earn revenue for the State.
Mr. Retnakaran responded that the previous government had sanctioned the project in principle on the condition that the promoters would abide by the laws. He added that the KGS Group had later violated at least nine laws relating to land reforms, land conservation, land use, irrigation, and SC/ ST Protection. “How can the government pick up stakes in a project that has breached so many laws? It is also an affront to this House that has approved a report by the committee on environment on the violation of rules by the promoters.”
Taking the Opposition by the horns, Revenue Minister Adoor Prakash produced official documents signed by the then Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan in 2011, directing the Pathanamthitta District Collector to make arrangements for transaction of the land in the name of the KGS Group. He said the directions were issued after the district authorities had pointed out the illegalities. “You were part of the Cabinet that had approved the project,” he told Mr. Retnakaran.
“It was the LDF government that decided to take a three per cent share in the project. We only enhanced the government stakes to 10 per cent.”
Adding to the discomfiture of the Opposition, Mr. Chandy said the LDF government had written to the Centre on February 26 that it was keen on promoting the Aranmula project in public interest. The then government, he said, had hurriedly notified the land needed for the project without examining the land records.
“The notification was done in haste to derive political mileage in the Assembly elections just around the corner,” Mr. Chandy said. The Government was in the process of de-notifying the land over and above the 500 acres needed for the project.
Highlighting the mounting protests by local people, Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan urged the government to review the project. He said the LDF would do everything possible to stall the progress of the project.
Mr. Achuthanandan announced that the Opposition was staging a walk out against the government decision to go ahead with the construction of the airport.