HC notice to govt. on Pettimudi victims’ plea

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the State government and Kanan Devan Hills Plantation Company on a writ petition filed by some of the victims in the Pettimudi landslip, seeking to acquire the excess land held by the company and assign them to serving and displaced plantation workers and landless in the State.

The petition filed by the victims and Kannan Devan Hill Development and Welfare Society (KDHDWS) sought to declare unconstitutional Section 81(1)(e) of the Kerala Land Reforms Act under which the exemption were give to the company from the land ceiling. The petition pleaded for a directive to the government to identify a suitable land near the existing labour lines and provide the labourers housing sites.

According to the petitioners, the landslip that occurred at Pettimudi on August 6, 2020, had killed 70 people, including 14 children. All the victims belonged to the families of serving and displaced native tea plantation workers of Kanan Devan Company. The condition of labour lines at Pettimudi where the petitioners had lived was pathetic. The village also had the highest number of people without land and home.

The Justice N. Krishnan Nair Commission which had looked into the crisis in the plantation sector following the Orumai (women collective) protest movement in 2016 had outlined the the abject condition of housing in the estates of the company. In fact, it noted that most of them were not habitable. The State government in 2020 issued an order proposing to built houses for the families of workers under the LIFE Mission scheme.

As per the order, the government would provide 50% of the cost of housing and the rest should be borne by the company. Despite the commission report and the government order, not a single inch of land had been given to any worker by the company.

The petitioners also pointed out that the provision of the Act provided for exemption from the land ceiling in public interest. The removal of exemption would lead to inclusive development of the plantation area by extending economic opportunities to the poor. The company was illegally holding 58,769 acres of land by enjoying a special privilege of exemption from the land ceiling, the petitioners pointed out.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 6:14:30 PM |

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