Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan reached the hill station of Munnar on Tuesday to announce the taking over of 1280 acres of land allegedly occupied by the Tata Tea.
Braving biting cold and heavy rain the 84-year-old Chief Minister removed the sign board of the Tata with the ease of a youth and erected a government board. In true comrade’s style he warned the Tatas against going for litigation or any other move to torpedo the ongoing demolition drive in the misty town (2000 m above sea level).
“If you make any move against this, I warn you, we will take back all the land leased to you,” he said adding the Tatas were illegally occupying up to 50,000 acres and they all will be retrieved immediately. Terming it the second land reforms (the first in 1957 by the EMS government) movement he said the government would take back all its lands encroached by the land mafia.
But soon after the Chief Minister announced the big “take over”, the Tata Tea came out with an explanation that the land confiscated by the CM belonged to the forest department.
“The land taken in Neymakkad belongs to the forest department. We had only placed our signboard pointing to our estate that adjoins the forest land. We were not supposed to put that board there and it has been removed,” said T Damu, advisor to the Tata group.
However, special task force chief Suresh Kumar disputed Tata's claim and said the land had not been vested with the government under the Land Resumption Act of 1971.
“We have done what previous governments have failed to do. The message is to all that they should own only land which is rightfully theirs and not encroach upon land they do not own," Achuthanandan said.
He said he was on a “historic mission” that would take land reforms initiated in the state by the first communist government in next stage.
The land thus taken back would be distributed to landless farm workers, farmers and tribesmen and to promote tourism without hurting the ecology of the terrain.