Top CPM leaders have started fighting each other over the alleged land grab by CPM legislator S Rajendran from Devikulam. CPM veteran and Administrative Reforms Commission chairman VS Achuthanandan minced no words in calling Rajendran 'man of land mafia.'


Related: Land grab by CPM legislator: Chief Minister’s claim falls flat
 

VS Achuthanandan

It is quite natural that people want action against the MLA (Rajendran), said the former Chief Minister, indirectly supporting the Congress demand for the resignation of the CPM legislator.

 

 "Every inch of public land encroachments in Munnar should be recovered from the mafia. Whenever the government tried to take the land back from encroachers, the land mafia had put up a strong resistance," he added.
 

Related: 6000 acres and counting: Land, resort mafia thrive in Munnar
 

VS also extended support to Devikulam Sub-Collector Sreeram Venkataraman, who invited the ire of the district CPM leadership after he launched a crackdown on land and resort mafia in Munnar and surrounding areas. The CPM had come out openly against the IAS officer.

 

S Rajendran

"It is heart breaking to know that encroachments are continuing without respite. The LDF should keep its promise given in its manifesto," VS said. He criticized the Congress’s new found love of Munnar. “Was Ramesh Chennithala sleeping when the land mafia grabbed large swathes of Munnar during the UDF regime,” he quipped.
 

Related: Munnar might see demolition drive again to save hill station from land mafia
 

By terming his party colleague and fellow legislator as a partner of the land mafia in Munnar, Achuthanandan was indirectly criticizing Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who defended the MLA on Monday. Achuthanandan also hinted that he might visit Munnar.  

 

Pinarayi Vijayan had rubbished allegations that Rajendran built his house in public land illegally occupied by him. "Such allegations had cropped up in the past as well. But Rajendran has title deeds to the land in his possession," Vijayan said.

 

Rajendran claimed that he received the title deeds for the 8-cents of land in which he built his house. The Land Assignment Committee headed by AK Mani, former MLA of the Congress, awarded the title deeds in 2000, he said yesterday.
 

Related: Settlers occupy forest land twice as big as many sanctuaries in Kerala
 

Meanwhile, MM Mani, Power Minister, who represents Udumbanchola in Idukki, came in support of Rajendran. But in reply to an RTI query, Devikulam Taluk officials clarified that the Land Assignment Committee had not convened in the period 2000-03.

 

Alleging that the CPM was engaged in an organised land grab in Munnar, Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said on Monday that CPM leaders including Rajendran MLA were part of the land mafia.

 

VS Achuthanandan’s open criticism of the party MLA and the indirect references to the state government’s failure to check the land encroachments would reopen the internal bickering in the CPM.



When Achuthanandan assumed office as Kerala Chief Minister in 2006, he launched a massive operation to free Munnar from the clutches of land and resort mafia. He formed a special task force headed by three top IAS-IPS officers for the ‘Munnar Mission’. The team demolished many illegal constructions including big resorts. In an operation that lasted over a month, the trusted bureaucrats of  Achuthanandan demolished several huge buildings constructed illegally in the eco-sensitive region and recovered 15,000 acres of public land from land grabbers

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Though it was widely appreciated, and made headlines even in international media, as a welcome step to protect the environment and to rein in encroachers, the mission ran into political and legal troubles and was met with a roadblock soon.