Kerala Opposition stages walkout over govt.’s permission to reclaim Ernakulam wetland

The Opposition on Wednesday walked out of the Kerala Assembly, angered over the government’s refusal to adjourn the House to discuss the Revenue Department’s controversial decision to allow a private company with “shady links” to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office to convert 15 acres of paddy land to saleable real estate at Kunnathunadu in Ernakulam district.

Moving the adjournment motion, V. P. Sajeendran, Congress, said the then Additional Chief Secretary, P. H. Kurien, had overruled the District Collector’s order to restore the wetland illegally reclaimed by the firm, Speak Properties, in 2015.

A controversial businessman, whom Administration Commission chairperson V.S. Achuthanandan had repeatedly referred to as a “contemptible” character, controlled the firm through his nominees, Mr. Sajeendran alleged.

The MLA alleged Mr. Kurien had, on the eve of his retirement in May, bypassed due process and with suspicious haste cancelled the Collector’s order “under pressure” from the Chief Minister’s Office and without the concurrence of Revenue Minister E. Chandrasekharan. The bureaucrat did not even wait for the opinion of the Law Department and processed the file at ‘light-speed’ to favour the firm, he alleged.

Mr. Chandrasekharan said the government had suspended Mr. Kurien’s order after it found it to be erroneous. The State had now moved the Advocate General for further legal opinion in the matter.

He said government surveyors had designated the tract of land as paddy field in the map-based databank of paddy fields and wetlands in Kerala well before the passage of the Kerala Conservation of Wetland and Paddy Land Act, 2008, and hence none could alter its land use pattern.

Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said the Minister’s reply was unsatisfactory. He challenged Mr. Chandrasekharan to repeal the order and initiate an anti-corruption enquiry against those officials responsible for the violation. Mr. Chandrasekharan, who was personally above reproach, was buying time for somebody, he alleged, and added that he was under extreme duress. The Chief Minister had “pulled the rug” from under the Revenue Department’s feet by ridding Collectors of their magisterial power and handing over the authority to Police Commissioners, he alleged. He did not bother to consult Mr Chandrasekharan. The CPI should show the courage to stand up to such humiliations, Mr. Chennithala alleged.

Earlier, Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan expunged a remark made by Mr. Sajeendran, which he deemed as ‘an attempt to body-shame CPI Ministers’.

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Printable version | Oct 24, 2020 9:55:12 AM |

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