Pathanamthitta: Aranmula, where an agitation had been made against building an airport, now has neither an airport nor any surplus land. With the abolition of the airport project, the land acquired by the government as surplus land has now gone into the posession of the original owner. Thereby hangs a tale of a major mystery in the surplus land case.
As soon as the government led by LDF, which had led the stir against the airport, came to office, it was declared that the airport project was cancelled. Following this, the 293-acre land purchased for the airport in violation of the Land Reforms Act, was declared as surplus land by Kozhencherry Taluk Land Board on 12 July 2017. The promoter of the airport and landlord Abraham Kalamannil approached the High Court against this and obtained a stay on 8 August 2017.
With this stay in place, the land again went back to Kalamannil. This happened as a result of the Revenue Department not taking any action to vacate the said stay, even after lapse of two years, as per information received under RTI from Kozhencheri Land Board. The reply received from Advocate General corroborates the same status.
As a matter of fact, to vacate the stay all the government had to do was to file a petition. And there are complaints of a big conspiracy behind the government not coming forward to do this; the allegation is that it is a connivance at high level in order for Kalamannil to not lose the land. The legal case was handled by a lawyer who is a prominent leader of the ruling coalition partner CPI. Earlier, LDF had come out in protest against building an airport with the argument that reclaiming Aranmula's farm land for the airport would create environmental damage.
But now, although the airport project has been shelved, paddy farming has not been resumed there. And at a function attended by the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the part where the paddy seeds were sown is not part of the airport land, but an adjacent paddy field. After the harvest from that batch of seeds, there has been no follow-up farming there.
It is being pointed out that the interest to convey the land back to the landlord was the motive in not carrying out any continued farming there. And those who live in huts there say that the owner has been trying to evict the people who reside in sheds in the surplus land.