Alappuzha District Collector T V Anupama has submitted a preliminary report to the government which says that Transport Minister Thomas Chandy’s Water World Tourism Company has encroached on parts of Marthandam Lake for his Lake Palace Resort.
Chandy denied all the allegations saying that he would resign if the charges are proved right. He also said that a conspiracy was being hatched against him. The Collector has now presented the final report before the government - with clear evidence against the land encroachment by the Minister. The comprehensive report supported by documents and official reports confirm the violation of land rules, construction of road by encroaching upon the lake and the levelling of government-owned land. The Collector concludes the report recommending action against the Minister’s company and the colluding officials. Her findings will be much relevant in the case that is being heard by the High Court.
The verbal fight between the Advocate General (AG) and the Revenue Minister comes when the Chief Minister is embroiled in the mess and is unable to resolve the controversy that is tarnishing the reputation of the government. The encroachment of Marthandam Lake is also evolving into a CPI (M)-CPI fight, akin to the Munnar encroachment. AG’s response towards the Revenue Minister’s suggestion reinforces the belief that the approach of the CPI (M) and the Chief Minister towards land encroachments has been sluggish. The Marthandam Lake controversy reinforces the feeling that the government is failing to ensure that those in power as well as the government institutions are above suspicion. This brings under the shadow of doubt the assurance given by the Chief Minister in the assembly that the government would not shield those at top positions if they resort to illegal moves. The lenient approach of the Chief Minister towards Thomas Chandy has put a dent in the belief that the stances of government should be non-discriminatory and transparent.
On the basis of available information, one can say without doubt that Thomas Chandy’s firm has enjoyed governmental patronage through the rule of all previous governments. The road in dispute there was tarred using the MP fund of Congress and CPI MP’s. And it was with the helpful intervention of the UDF regime that a third of the tax imposed on 18 buildings was waived. Overall, the controversy brings out the fact that people’s representatives, cutting across party affiliations, who get elected without due diligence use their power and funds to generously help the rich. Thus, now it emerges that government officials are just the lackeys and apologists of this class. In spite of the wide public attention so far, the Land Revenue Tahsildar produced before the Collector a report which suppressed the major findings of the Village Office of Kainakari – one that was even against the report of 2011 by the then Tahsildar. Although the earlier missing files regarding the Lake Palace Resort have been recovered, the essential elements such as the property title, land tax receipt and possession certificate are still not available. The tampered parts of the files strengthen the suspicion that the files were restored after the revenue records were destroyed.
As per the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008, filling of paddy land is unauthorized. No laws provide for any authority to change the classification in Basic Tax Register (BTR). As such, what has happened in Marthandam Lake are unauthorized actions amounting to encroachment. Further, a Land Board enquiry has been ordered by Revenue Minister E. Chandrashekharan against the company of Thomas Chandy on the complaint that it encroached on the Devaswam Board land in Kainakari Mathoor Bhagvati. In this context, if there is no urgent action on the part of the Chief Minister to regain credibility, the government is bound to cut a ludicrous figure. And it may lead to a flare-up of the tussle between Revenue Minister and AG.