Left leaders live on Tata’s alms in Munnar

via VR Jayaraj | Idukki - Daily Pioneer published on February 7, 2010

Even when Kerala’s LDF Government has announced all-out war against the Tata Tea company over its “encroachments” in Munnar and the Congress-led Opposition UDF has pledged whole-hearted support to that war, several influential leaders of the CPI(M), CPI and the Congress in this hill resort of Idukki district are enjoying luxurious life at homes gifted by the company, and their kin are safely employed in its various concerns.

That the bungalows, land and jobs held by these leaders are not something they had earned through proper channel and legally was obvious from the reaction of one of them to mediamen who attempted to film such a house. “I will kill anyone trying to film my house,” was the response of Sundara Manikyam, former CPI(M) MLA and member of the party’s Idukki district committee.

As per reports, those who have “earned” such luxurious bungalows, jobs for kin and land for business and cultivation from the Tatas in Munnar are leaders who command influence over the workers of the tea estates through trade unions. These leaders are enjoying such luxuries when almost all the workers, whom they claim to represent, do not even hold a square feet of land or home of their own though they have been working here for three generations.

According to reports, the leaders who live in Tata-gifted houses include CA Kurien, top CPI leader and a former Deputy Speaker of the Kerala Assembly, CPI’s district council member and trade union leader MY Ouseph, its district leaders Pazhanivel and Muthuppandi, CPI(M) leader Sundara Manikyam, former Congress MLA AK Mani and Kuppusamy, who recently left the INTUC.

With no arguments left to defend themselves, top leaders of the concerned parties offered to take action against those who had allegedly been receiving the gifts of Tata in Munnar, but only after proper and detailed inquiries. However, local residents and even sources in the Tata Tea company said there was no need for any inquiry and that this was known to anybody who knew anything about Munnar.

The alms these leaders reportedly receive from the Tatas are not limited to homes and land. It is said that two sons and a nephew of former Deputy Speaker CA Kurien of the CPI are top officials with Tata. CPI leader Ouseph’s younger brother MT Poulose is a manager with a Tata concern. But party MLA Sunil Kumar still does not know whether any of the party leaders are receiving “gifts” from Tata.

Arun, son of former CPI(M) MLA Sundara Manikyam, who lives in a Tata-provided Bungalow, is said to be holding a high position in the Tata Tea’s central store in Munnar. Two children of CPI(M) MLA S Rajendran are studying at the public schools run by Tata in Munnar and reports say that they enjoy fee-exemption. Almost these leaders have given strict warnings to the Government against taking action against Tatas in the name of encroachment or illegal constructions.

The official Kerala leaderships of the Left parties have not yet formally responded to the reports about their men accepting gifts from the corporate company but State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala said strict action would be taken against those who had been receiving such gifts. However, this would be done only after detailed inquiries, he said.

CPI(M)’s State secretariat member and Power Minister AK Balan preferred to see such reports as part of the black-mailing strategy of the Tatas as the Government had now started some determined initiatives against its illegal constructions and encroachments in Munnar. He asserted that those who had accepted gifts from the company would not have any place in the CPI(M).

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