Many Kerala revenue, forest officials suspended

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM JULY 3. The Kerala Cabinet on Wednesday decided to suspend T. J. Mathew who was the Idukki Collector, and several revenue and forest officials pending inquiry into their role in the encroachments at Mathikettan in Idukki district. Mr. Mathew is at present the Deputy Secretary, Personnel and Administrative Reforms department.

The Chief Minister, A. K. Antony, told presspersons that the Cabinet had approved the inquiry report submitted by the Additional Chief Secretary, N. Chandrasekharan Nair, the Forest Secretary, Bharat Bhooshan and the Revenue Secretary, Sajan Peter, on the encroachments.

The Chief Minister said Vigilance inquiries would be ordered against the Santhanpara village panchayat and Idukki district panchayat which took up a scheme to widen the road to Mathikettan and the taluk surveyor, Prabhakaran Pillai.

The Devikulam Forest Range Officer, V. K. Francis, Forester, M. S. Jayaprakash and guards, K. Lalu, X. Jijimon and K. K. Jayaprakash, were the forest officials proposed to be suspended. Others include the transferred Revenue officials, Peter John (who was Tahsildar, Udumbanchola), T. C. Thankappan (Deputy Collector) and Thankappan and P. L. Santhosh (village officers).

The inquiry, Mr. Antony said, showed that the encroachments had been going on at Mathikettan for years. The first of the encroachments dated back to 1966-69. Largescale encroachments began from 1996 onwards. The last spate of encroachments was from October 2001 when 200 hectares were encroached upon. He said that the cardamom plantations found at Mathikettan were four to five years old. There were coffee, lemon and cultivated crops which were nine months to ten years old.

The Santhanpara panchayat, he said, had provided considerable protection to the encroachers. The Idukki district panchayat built a motorable road to Mathikettan at a cost of Rs. 2 lakhs. The road was widened without the consent of the Forest Department. There were plans to build bigger roads. Solar lamps were distributed for lighting up the temporary sheds. There was serious neglect of duty by officials in preventing the recent encroachments.

He said that all illegal title deeds issued in the area would be cancelled and the area handed over to the Forest Department. Illegal title deeds issued before 1977 would also be cancelled. Legal titles existing in the area dated back to 1942. Some land records were missing from revenue offices at Pooppara and Udumbanchola. Mr. Antony said only 1,000 acres of forest existed in Mathikettan now.

The yield from the existing cardamom plantations would be harvested by the Forest Department until a decision on retention of the plantations was taken. The Forest, Revenue and Police departments would take steps to prevent encroachments.

The Chief Minister said the Cabinet had decided to issue no-objection certificates for starting 19 more B. Sc. Nursing colleges in the State.

Permission would be provided for starting 12 technical higher secondary schools next year, as they had to arrange land and temporary buildings.

He said the cut-off date for redeployment of protected teachers would be extended by three months. Accordingly, all protected teachers would get full salaries up to September 30. Those continuing as protected teachers after that would only get 50 per cent of the salary.

He said that the Government would be taking steps to remove the concerns of people regarding application of Endosulfan in the plantations in Kasaragod district.

Application of the pesticide had been going on there for years. The State Plantation Corporation was not spraying the pesticide now.

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