Centre can probe ISRO land scam: Achuthanandan


Thiruvananthapuram : Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan Wednesday said it was up to the central government to conduct an inquiry into the controversial purchase of land by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

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“ISRO comes directly under the prime minister and it is they who have to launch an inquiry and not us. If they are ready for it, then the state government will provide all necessary help,” Achuthanandan said.

ISRO had purchased 82 acres of land in Ponmudi, 75 km from here, from high-profile businessman Savy Mano Mathew to set up a space education institute. The opposition maintains that the land belongs to the forest department and was sold in connivance with Forest Minister Binoy Viswom.

Achuthanandan, however, criticised leader of opposition Oommen Chandy of the Congress and said it was the Congress government that in 2005 helped Mathew usurp forestland through a bill it piloted.

Chandy, however, said they would continue to demand a probe.

“At no cost are we going to go back from the demand for a probe and the resignation of Viswom. Now it is all the more important because you have said that I am also involved,” said Chandy.

The Kerala government had Tuesday suspended a top forest department official, transferred two, and ordered an inquiry into the role of five other officials in the deal.

“The current session of the assembly is to end tomorrow (Thursday), so we will take the protest to the streets in a big way,” P.P. Thankachan, convenor of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF), told reporters.

“We are all surprised that a person like Achuthanandan who always says he will not tolerate corruption is shielding a corrupt minister. We will not go back till our demands are met.”

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India (CPI) to which Viswom belongs is in a quandary because this is the first time it is caught in a corruption scandal.

Senior CPI legislator K.E. Ismail has said if Achuthanandan had acted in time no such crisis would have occurred.

“Viswom had written to Achuthanandan last month when work on a helipad was on at the site which ISRO had purchased, but he did not do anything,” said Ismail.

The issue has stalled assembly proceedings repeatedly since the session began earlier this month.