Achuthanandan insists land was encroached, Chandy refutes


Thiruvananthapuram : Was the land in Munnar "recovered" from Tata Tea by the Kerala government really possessed by the firm or was it a government property? The confusion continues with Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan and Leader of Opposition Oommen Chandy making contradictory claims.

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Achuthanandan last week went to Munnar, a hill town also known for its tea gardens, and in a symbolic act removed a signboard of the Tata group and placed one of Kerala government near a piece of land, and announced that he had recovered 1,280 acres of land from Tata Tea.

While Tata Tea had acquired the property from a parent company, the state government has long insisted that the landholding was beyond the limit permitted under a local law.

However, the Tata group firm denied that the land "recovered" was ever possessed by it and said that it was a notified forest land.

Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran later told the state assembly that the land "seized" by Achuthanandan actually belonged to the forest department itself.

Talking to reporters in Palakkad Sunday, Achuthanandan sought to clarify that "of the entire land that was seized, only 60 acres belonged to the forest department and the rest was illegally kept by Tatas."

However, Chandy was not satisfied with the answer and visited Munnar, about 300 km from here, for an on-the-spot inspection of the controversial plot of land Sunday afternoon.

"It is quite surprising to see that in the land which Achuthanandan claimed as seized there are clear boundary markings indicating that it belongs to the forest department. It is difficult to believe what Achuthanandan says," Chandy told reporters.

With the opposition led by Chandy taking up the issue both inside and outside the assembly, accusing Achuthanandan of having taken people of the state for a ride by enacting a 'stage managed' event, the coming days are expected to be eventful.

The chief minister also faces heat from within his Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) over his drive against land encroachment in the state.