The latest controversies regarding the land encroachment in Munnar that has been continuing for almost a month is likely to disappear in the mist of the allegations and counter arguments by the politicians.
The recently surfaced reports and the subsequent reactions reveal the severity of the damage carried out by the illegal encroachers and the politicians pandering to the mafia who dangerously exploit the nature and environment thereby threatening the existence. The land mafia that illegally occupied the forest land belonging to the government and land with title deeds given to the poor to construct homes, have been violating environmental guidelines and carrying out grave destruction in the area through unauthorized constructions. The local political leadership who back the mafia are not only encouraging injustice but they are even willing to become brokers or martyrs for these illegal activities. They are visibly active in demoralizing the officials who check the unlawful encroachment and unauthorized construction and also in flaunting power by threatening them to cause physical harm. The fact that the Left Front parties who strive for the rights of employees, farmers and the poor, are always held accused, is ironical.
Munnar issue has once again become a fodder for discussions after a report submitted by the Assembly Council on Environment. It recommends adopting immediate measures for protecting the area which is rich in biodiversity and demands the demolition of all buildings constructed violating environmental regulations. V S Achuthananthan, who led the Left government ten years ago, was at the forefront of initiating a drive for evicting the land encroachers in Munnar. But the attempt was abandoned mid-way due to the lack of support from even his own party. The report presented by the Land Revenue Commissioner before the Assembly Council, the subsequent findings and suggestions of the Council and the move of the Devikulam Sub Collector to adopt legal action are what has angered the land mafia and those supporting them. Devikulam Sub Collector Sreeram Venkatraman who took charge last year, initiated stern action against hundreds of illegal high-rises belonging to real estate dealers and quarry owners.
It’s amidst this move that the two government council reports have surfaced. However, the politicians are manipulating the sentiments of the poor farmers by manoeuvering the move against illegal encroachment of land as one against the common man. Activities like grabbing the land given by the government to the landless, encroaching the government’s forest land and getting hold of land using fake title deeds came under the risk of getting caught. It was then the farmers organization began an agitation alleging the attempt as a move to harass the poor who were entitled to land with title deeds. Although the Chief Minister intervened in the matter and put an end to the strike in front of the residence of the Sub Collector, the politicians continue their firm stance, denying any encroachment attempts except in Munnar town.
The land mafia hopes to proceed with their exploitation once the commotion subside. A meeting was called on 27th of this month in the backdrop of the smoldering agitation to discuss the encroachment issue. Even in the meeting, there was a huge outcry by the politicians to legalize the unauthorized activities. Even though the Chief Minister expressed his annoyance against the land seizure, he didn’t forget to appease the agitators. Even while he says that the government would bring restrictions on building resorts in Munnar, the CM stating, that those visiting the hilly town should have adequate accommodation to stay and that there won’t be any action against those who have been living in the area for years, is due to the agitators.
It’s the MLA of the ruling party who threaten to chop the limbs of the 30-year old Sub Collector who attempts to evict the encroachers. It’s also a Minister of the ruling party who dismisses the reports by the Sub Collector and the Assembly Council and also claims that those including their own party leader doesn’t know the abc of the Munnar issue. Given the present circumstances, Sreeram Venkatraman too would undoubtedly face the same fate as Suresh Kumar. The recommendations to demolish the illegal buildings has already been diluted to the stance of not permitting new constructions. It’s not only the government lands allotted to the poor that has disappeared but also the related crucial documents that have been tampered with. The truth has thus been twisted with the complainant turning into culprits and predators into preys. It’s those at the top of the ruling party itself who raise their voice for the encroachers and at the same time humiliate them dubbing them as the land mafia. But none display this feverishness to resist the land encroachment that has been continuing since ages.
The only outcome of the new reports and the moves of the sub collector is that the people could once again get to know the real culprits. The question whether there is anyone ready to stand up against those exploiting Munnar still remains.