“Aranmula airport project” in Presidential address a conspiracy, alleges activists.

published on February 22, 2013
The inclusion of Aranmula airport project in the President’s address to Parliament on Thursday has triggered off strong reaction in Kerala with political leaders, activists and environmentalists condemning the move.

Opposition leader V S Achutanandan was the first to react on the issue. In a strongly worded statement, VS said that the reference was made disregarding the fact that the proposed project is on encroached government land and is being implemented flouting all norms.

He also pointed out that Aranmula airport project could not be compared with the Kannur airport which is implemented under the leadership of the State Government abiding by all norms.

President Mukherjee’s in his address to the joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday had said, “My government has given in-principle approval for setting up a greenfield airport at Aranmula in Kerala, apart from airports at Navi Mumbai, Mopa and Kannur.”

Other Left parties including the CPI also condemned the move. P. Prasad, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader and a close associate of Medha Patkar, social activist, sees a crucial role played by the Prime Minister’s Office for including the Aranmula airport project in the Presidential address. “It is an irony that the proposed Aranmula airport, which is yet to get environmental clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, is the lone development project that has found a place in the draft of the Presidential address,” the CPI leader’s statement alleged. Prasad also alleged that the declaration proves that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and her son-in-law Robert Vadra are behind the promoters of the project.

The BJP and the Aranmula Paithruka Grama Karma Samithi also came out strongly against the reference made by the President. The Samithi took out protest march in Aranmula on Thursday evening in which hundreds of local residents participated.

Poet and environmentalist Sugathakumari termed the President’s declaration in the Parliament as politically motivated alleging that the government has misled the President.

Meanwhile the Hindu newspaper has pointed out that new questions have been raised over certain reported inconsistencies in the speech made by President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday announcing the in-principle approval for the proposed greenfield airport project at Aranmula.

The newspaper report points out that an official release issued by the Press Information Bureau on March 9, 2011, quoting a reply speech by the then Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi in the Lok Sabha, contradicts the statement in the President’s speech.

The report says that Ravi had categorically stated that the Government of India has granted ‘in-principle’ approval for setting up of a greenfield airport at Mopa in Goa in March 2000, greenfield airport at Navi Mumbai through public-private partnership to the Government of Maharashtra in July 2007 and in-principle approval for setting up of a greenfield airport at Kannur to the Government of Kerala in February, 2008. In another reply made by Ravi in the Rajya Sabha on December 15, 2011 said, “so far, the Government of India had given in-principle approval for 15 new greenfield airports in the country,” that include those in Mopa and Navi Mumbai.

However there is no mention of Aranmula airport in the report.

“Hindu” report also points out that the promoters of the private airport are facing legal issues. “The District Collector has already initiated steps to take over 132 ha of excess land in their possession and for cancellation of the mutation of the land. The State Land Board as well as the Legislative Committee on Environment too had found serious irregularities and violation of important Acts made in the name of the airport project, which could bring about disastrous socio-environmental implications in the Pampa river basin”, the reports points out.

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