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    Govt clears plan to acquire 'controversial' land for Sabarimala airport

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    Govt clears plan to acquire controversial land for Sabarimala airport
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    Thiruvananthapuram: After dilly-dallying, the Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala has begun the process to acquire land for the proposed Sabarimala airport.

    A government panel of bureaucrats sometime back was told to identify the land for the proposed airport. The panel zeroed in on 2,263- acre Cheruvally rubber estate in Kottayam district for the proposed airport.

    It will be the fifth international airport in Kerala, which is already the first state in the country with four international airports.

    As soon as the decision became public, state BJP chief K. Surendran termed it as a fraudulent deal.

    On Thursday the Vijayan government gave the nod to the Kottayam district collector to go ahead with the land acquisition.

    Located in Kottayam, the estate lies about 48 km from the famous Sabarimala temple.

    The rubber estate is owned by Thiruvalla-headquartered Believers Church and its title has for long been a contentious issue involving successive governments who have contended that the land originally belongs to the state government.

    The ownership issue involving its present owners and the state government has been lying with the Kerala High Court.

    It was in 2016 that Vijayan got the informal go-ahead from the then Union Civil Aviation Minister Anand Gajapathy Raju to build an airport near the Sabarimala temple.

    There have been demands for building an airport to cater to the Sabarimala pilgrims. During the previous Oommen Chandy government, a proposal by a private player to build an airport at Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district got entangled in various issues at the local level.

    After the Vijayan government assumed office in May last year, the government revoked the earlier sanction given to the Aranmula airport and a search for another suitable land in the same district started.

    Surendran said since the land belongs to the Kerala government, it's ironic that the state government would now pay for it.

    "We are not at all against an airport; in fact, it will be good for the Sabarimala temple. But we are against this hugely corrupt deal, where the government is buying its own land. If this is going to be taken forward, similar deals would be the order of the day," said Surendran.

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