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Kerala govt in a fix over Tata land row

BS Reporter  |  Thiruvananthapuram 

Revenue Minister says land belongs to forest dept.
The was in a tight spot today, with Revenue Minister KP Rajendran informing the Assembly that the land reported as recovered from the Tatas in Munnar was, in fact, land owned by the department of forest.
The statement by the Communist Party of India (CPI) man in the CPI(M)-led ministry has spurred widespread criticism against the VS Achuthanandan government. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee chief Ramesh Chennithala lost no time in launching a flurry of rebukes against the government "flaw".
A team led by Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan had, on Tuesday, recovered 316.53 acres at 8-Mile, Marayur in Munnar which, according to the government task force set up to recover encroached land in Munnar, had been encroached upon by the Tatas.
The incident had triggered widespread criticism, with the Opposition United Democratic Front sparking off a debate on the issue. Today's revelation in the Assembly by the revenue minister has left the Achuthanandan-led government red-faced.
This has cemented the argument by Tata Tea executives that the recovered land, on which the state team led by the chief minister had uprooted the Tata Tea signboard and placed a state government signboard on Tuesday, was not under the company's control.
The revenue minister further clarified that the Tatas did not own any land in the area where the recovery was made. The signboard that belonged to the company had been on poramboke land or unmarked government land. According to Rajendran, the recovered land had been under the department of forest's control since 1971.
Though the government had handed over the land to the department in 1974 according to the Land Board rules, no government order had been issued in this regard, he added.
Our Kolkata Bureau adds: Tata Tea sources said not only had the company not encroached on any land but Tata Tea actually had less land than what was allotted. According to a report submitted by the additional chief secretary in June 2006, Tata Tea is short of 687.52 acres.
In 1976, 71,061 acres was taken away from the company in accordance with the Land Resumption Act. Tata Tea, when it bought out Finlay's shares in Tata Finlay, got 58,741 acres, which was what the company was permitted to hold.
Sources said the company could not possibly have encroached on 50,000 acres (as the chief minister had claimed) since that would be around half the total land in Kannan Devan village, which is 1,37,000 acres.
The company filed a writ petition two weeks ago and will fight it out legally. The next hearing is scheduled for July 11.
TWO IN A BUSH
  • A state team led by the chief minister had uprooted the Tata Tea signboard and placed a state government signboard on Tuesday
  • Tata signboard had actually been on unmarked govt land
  • The recovered land had been under the department of forest's control since 1971.
  • Tata Tea sources say not only had the company not encroached on any land but it had less land than what was allotted.
  • The company filed a writ petition two weeks ago and will fight it out legally.
  • First Published: Fri, July 06 2007. 00:00 IST
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