Minister to visit Pooyamkutty again

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM MAY 29. The Forest Minister, K. Sudhakaran, will visit the Pooyamkutty forests on June 2 to personally verify whether there were encroachments in the area.

The Minister said that though he could not find any encroachments during his earlier visit to the area, the Leader of the Opposition, V. S. Achuthanandan, and some journalists had visited the forests and had said that there were encroachments. He did not find any reason to disbelieve him. Hence, his plans for a second visit.

He urged journalists and others to supply him with information that would help him spot the places where the encroachments had taken place. They could come to the Thattekad Guest House in the morning on May 3.

He said that if he found encroachment at Pooyamkutty during his visit, he would be taking action against officials who had misguided him last time. The encroachers would be evicted without any consideration.

He said that tribals were living in 13 settlements at Pooyamkutty. Though they do not have valid documents for ownership of their land, they would not be treated as encroachers. They would be given documents for the land.

However, excess land in the hands of some tribals, who were in possession of up to 30 acres, would be taken over by the Government and distributed to other tribals.

He said that the all post-1977 encroachments would be evicted. A survey had been proposed using satellite imagery by the Kerala Forest Research Institute. The survey would take a year. Once, the report is received, action would be taken to evict the encroachers.

He said that only six to seven persons in possession of land at Mathikettan remained to be evicted. The validity of their documents was being examined. The indication was that they too were not valid.

He said that all concrete buildings in the area except two had already been demolished. The department was yet to take a decision on whether to destroy the cardamom planted by the encroachers. The cost of maintaining them could be higher than the cost of retaining them under Forest Department.

Besides, they could also encourage intrusions by outsiders. He said that the Government had decided to acquire land if needed for giving one to five acres of land to each landless tribal. As per the figures of Tribal Development Department, there were only 26,000 landless tribals in the State.

He said that the Government proposed to protect leased land, which were remaining unused. A rapid action force was being formed to protect the forests with weaponry and night vision equipment.

He maintained that there were no differences between him and the Revenue Minister, K. M. Mani. None in the Government had helped the encroachers.

The Government was determined to resist all attempts to encroach upon land either by the tribals or others. The attempts by Infam to reoccupy land at Mathikettan too would not be treated differently.

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