Encroachment: CPM launches war against VS

via VR Jayaraj | Idukki published on January 24, 2010

The CPI(M) launched measures to defeat the efforts of its own Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan to retrieve the government lands grabbed by party-backed encroachers in eco-sensitive Munnar hill resort in Idukki district of Kerala even as the Chief Minister announced on Sunday that his Government “will not spare even a single encroacher”.

The CPI(M)’s plan is to use small land-holders and workers in the region to launch agitation against any attempt to retrieve grabbed lands, alleging that a lobby in the government is working against the interests of the poor people. With this objective in mind, the party has already started efforts to identify the poor families who had been served notice for encroachment by the Revenue Department. However, sources in the Revenue Department said they knew that the real intention behind the CPI(M) move was to save big land-grabbers.

Giving explicit indications of how harshly the CPI(M) planned to counter the Chief Minister’s anti-encroachment plan, MM Mani, the party’s Idukki district secretary, said, “Those who say about it (retrieval of lands) can keep saying it, but it is not going to be practical. If the (Government) plan is to take over lands with force that will not be allowed.” Mani alleged that there was a huge conspiracy behind the recent media reports that land encroachments were rampant in Munnar.

Mani was once a staunch loyalist of Achuthanandan in the fierce group war in the CPI(M) but became his foe after he launched the Mission Munnar anti-encroahcment drive in the hill resort in 2007. Incidentally, the very first land to be retrieved then by task force appointed by the Chief Minister was being held illegally by Mani’s brother Lambodaran. The CPI(M) leader had even gone to the extent of saying that they would break the knees of anyone attempting to retrieve land in Munnar, even if it was the Chief Minister.

Almost all the members of the Idukki district committee and the Munnar local committee of the CPI(M) and the party MLA from the area are dead against resumption of anti-encroachment works. These committees and leaders enjoyed the support of the official CPI(M) leadership headed by State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan. S Rajendran, CPI(M) MLA from the area, had even alleged that those who were trying to resume the operation were people who wanted to end human inhabitation in the hill resort.

Reacting to reports about the Government’s plan to resume anti-encroachment operation in Munnar, Mani told the media that nobody could forcibly send people away from the lands they were presently occupying. He said there were no new encroachments in Munnar and that reports about such encroachments were all results of a conspiracy against the small land-holders and farmers there.

Referring to the recent observations of the Kerala High Court that encroachment of land in Munnar was rampant and that this had led to environmental imbalance in the region, the CPI(M) leader said some “paper tigers” were behind the petitions filed in the court. It was on the basis of the observations and instructions of the High Court that Achuthanandan was now reportedly trying to resume anti-encroachment operations.

Mani ridiculed Achuthanandan, without referring to him by name, saying the New Munnar concept he had put forward was nothing but eye-wash. “Some people had come here advocating the New Munnar concept. There is no substance to it, which is just eyewash. It is up to those who had spoken about it to explain what happened to the concept,” he said. When the anti-encroachment operation was on in 2007, Achuthanandan had announced that the Government’s plan was to develop a New Munnar without land-grabbers.

The Chief Minister said in Alappuzha on Sunday that the Government would “deal with” all encroachers and “those who are helping them, including government officials”. He said the High Court had made certain studied comments on the land and ecological situation in Munnar and the instructions of the court would be implemented strictly in Munnar.

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