THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: An amendment has been made to the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008, to regularise the conversion of paddy fields.
The clause, which has been inserted in the Kerala Finance Bill 2015 tabled in the Assembly on Monday, states that paddy and wetlands reclaimed before 2008 can be regularised after securing 25 percent of the fair value of the land from the owner of the land.
Since the opposition members had staged a walk out before the finance minister could table the Finance Bill, it was left to ruling party members T N Prathapan and V T Balram to oppose the amendment in the floor of the house. Both the young Congress MLAs charged that the state government had bowed to the interests of a land mafia.
The amendment further states that in the case of lands for which a fair value has not been fixed, the owner will be asked to pay up 25 percent of the fair value of a land lying close by.
District collectors have been asked to vet the applications for conversion. The government expects an additional revenue of Rs 200 crore from the move. The amendment has been made on the recommendation of the subject committee.
Right after it came to power, the UDF had plans to dilute the stringent provisions of the 2008 Act to free fallow paddy land for industrial purposes, especially after Emerging Kerala in 2012.
The UDF Coordination Committee had asked revenue minister Adoor Prakash to come up with a draft amendment.
However, considering the ecological consequences of depleting wetlands, the Assembly Subject Committee decided to limit the regularisation to conversions that had taken place before 2008.
It was also felt that the clauses in the 2008 Act title deeds could not be given for those living along the banks of rivers and canals....