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Sriram Venkataraman IAS shifted; Opp sees pressure by big encroachers

Sriram Venkataraman IAS shifted; Opp sees pressure by big encroachers

Thiruvananthapuram: An IAS officer who had spearheaded the anti-encroachment drive at the hill station of Munnar in Kerala was today transferred by the CPI-M led LDF government, drawing condemnation from the opposition Congress and BJP.

The state cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan here decided to shift Devikulam sub-collector Sriram Venkataraman, who has been promoted and appointed as Employment and Training Director.

The move drew strong reaction from the Congress-led UDF and the BJP which alleged Venkataraman was shifted to help the resort mafia and due to pressure exerted by big encroachers of government lands in the popular hill station.

Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala said the transfer "clearly exposed the insincerity" of the government in its actions against encroachers.

Criticising the officers removal, BJP National Executive member V Muraleedharan said the governments "attempt to help" the encrochers should be opposed and defeated.

Speculation has been rife over the past few months about the IAS officers transfer after he took on the encroachers at Munnar.

Revenue Minister and CPI leader E Chandrasekharan, who had extended full support for the eviction drive, said the transfer was routine.

"Can we insist that he should remain in the same post always?," he asked reporters who sought his reaction.

CPI, a constituent of the ruling LDF, had supported the eviction drive and had strongly backed the IAS officer.

Refusing to be drawn into any controversy over the matter, Chandrasekharan said the change should be viewed as part of the administrative process.

"It is not the party which decides on transfers. This change should be seen as part of administrative process. The official has been Assistant collector and sub-collector for four years and the transfer is natural," he said.

The government has appointed Wayanad sub-collector, Premkumar as Devikulam sub-collector.

The new official will implement the governments policy on eviction of encroachers, the minister said.

Venkataraman had gained media attention when he brought down a 30-feet tall metal cross, put up under the garb of spiritual tourism at Papathychola in Munnar, as part of the anti-encroachment drive.

Vijayan had then expressed strong displeasure over the manner of removal of the cross, which was put up on land allegedly encroached by a group of people calling themselves as Spirit of Jesus.

At a meeting held to review the anti-eviction drive in Munnar, after the removal of the cross became controversial, the Chief Minister had come down on district revenue officials for the manner in which the religious symbol had been brought down.

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