Kochi: The revenue administration in the state has engineered a silent coup by cancelling the title deeds (pattayam) of over 20 acres of land owned by Joyce George, Idukki MP, and his close relatives. The surprising decision came even as the attention of the media has been riveted to the sleazy details of the Solar Commission Report and the fate transport minister Thomas Chandy.
The action, which sent shockwaves across Idukki, particularly in the Munnar region, is coming at a time when the political class in the state as a whole has been under the shadow of suspicion for facilitating and protecting the interest of the land grabbers.
The action also brings to focus the elaborate and well planned strategy adopted by the land grabbers in the Munnar region using the landless Dalits and the Adivasis as a cover for their nefarious designs with the active connivance of the political leaders in the region.
A retired Indian Forest Service officer with extensive experience in the Munnar region told this newspaper that the action against the Joyce George is only the tip of the iceberg.
“The new phase of land grabbing in the Munnar region is by using the landlessness of Dalits and Adivasis as a cover. The modus operandi is to get pattayam or title deed in the name of landless Dalit or Adivasi and then secure a power of attorney from them in favour of the land grabber”, he said. There are hundreds of such deals using the power of attorney route in the area, he said.
M Geethanandan, the leader of Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha, has called for a thorough probe into the allegations that land grabbers are using the power of attorney to appropriate the land from Dalits and Adivasis in the region. A detailed probe should be ordered and the guilty booked, he said.
Kottakamboor village came to attention of the land grabbers in the late 1990s with the proposal by the former minister P.J. Joseph to develop a new highway connecting Kodaikkanal in Tamil Nadu with Nedumabasserry International Airport in Kochi passing through Munnar. The alignment of the proposed highway was through the Kottakamboor village, triggering a land rush in the region.
A slew of persons with dubious business credentials from far off places in the state and even outside the state descended upon the region in the name of entrepreneurship and the local leaders in Munnar mostly acted as pathfinders for them.
A cursory glance on the list of persons having land in the region will show that majority of them do not belong to Munnar or Idukki district. Everything went well but for the decision to form the Kurinjimala Wildlife Sanctuary in 2007 and the Palani Hills and Wildlife Sanctuary in 2008.
The Kodaikkanal-Nedumbasserry highway project has to be abandoned as highway development is not possible through the sanctuaries. The decision to drop the highway project came as a blessing as it has brought a temporary halt to the speculative spree in the region.
A good chunk of land amassed for speculative purpose however has been in the possession of the people with strong holding capacity and they have been engaged in regualrising the title deeds by eliminating the fraudulent means used for the land grab with the support of the political leadership and a section of the bureaucracy.
The decision of the revenue administration by cancelling the title deeds of nearly 25 acres of land including that of the MP and his relatives brings a temporary halt to a sordid history....