Kerala: Land grabbers on notice

New law to recover public stretches from corporates.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state government will soon introduce a Bill in the Assembly, complete with stringent penal provisions for errant officials, to recover government lands encroached upon by big corporate houses. The draft of the Bill, called Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Bill, has been forwarded to the Law Department for vetting. "It has now been sent to the advocate general for his opinion," revenue minister E Chandrasekharan Nair in the Assembly on Monday.

The Bill envisages the setting up of special courts with civil and criminal jurisdiction to try encroachment cases. "The Act will also differentiate between settlers and encroachers. The former will be dealt with in a more sensitive considering the effort and money they have invested to make the land in their possession productive," a top Revenue Department official said.

There will also be strict provisions to deal with government officials who are hand in glove with the land mafia. The revenue minister had said that though encroachments were rampant across the state, it was worse in Idukki. "While in other districts an encroacher makes bold to take over 10 to 50 cents, an encroacher in In Idukki district illegally possesses 200 to 300 acres," Mr Chandrasekharan said.

The Land Grab Bill will essentially be a better armed version of the Land Conservancy Act of 1957. "The LC Act is the only recourse available to prevent encroachment on government land, but it did not have enough teeth to tackle the wave of encroachments, especially in the plantation and tourism sectors, the official said. It is said that at least five lakh acres of public land is in the illegal custody of 200-odd encroachers. The Act is also expected to free enough government land to be distributed among the homeless. It is estimated that there are around 2.70 lakh homeless in the state.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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