Tata Group refutes charge of encroachment in Munnar
Rebutting the charges that it held excess land in Munnar, the Tata Group on Sunday said a company promoted by it did not possess an inch of encroached land in excess of 58741.82 acres vested to it legally.
Rejecting the charges levelled against the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company (KDHP) by the Kerala government in the wake of the ongoing eviction drive at the hill station, Tata Tea Managing Director Percy Siganporia said such allegations were unfounded. Actually there was a shortage of 278.23 hectates in the company's holding.
"We have not encorached or illegally held any land. We do what is right, and in the end the truth will prevail," he told a press meet in Thiruvananthapuram in the presence of senior KDHP executives.
Reaffirming the group's commitment to carry on with the participatory model of development it created by forming KDPH with majority stakes given to the workers, he said the company did not use any part of the land for any commercial purposes other than for what it was assigned.
The land now held by KDHP was awarded to Tata Tea by the Land Board under Kanan Devan Hills (Resumption of Lands) Act of 1971. Under the same Act, 71051.22 acres were vested in the government.
It was evident from the subsequent surveys and affidavits filed in related cases that there was no encorachment on the land vested to the government, he said.
On the recent visit of Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan to Munnar, where he declared that excess land had been taken back, company officials said the land supposedly reclaimed belonged to the government and not to Tata Tea or KDHP.
The uprooting of tea bushes by officials along road-margins amounted to flouting of the agreement that three months' notice be given before road-widening, they said.
The officers were doing such things to please "the highest authority" by giving wide publicity to the effect that these areas were encroached, which in fact were permissive occupations covered by proper agreements, they said.
On the satellite survey of the area ordered recently, the officials said it was done misquoting court orders with malafide intentions to arrive at conclusions different from those arrived at by earlier surveys.
The government survey in 2001 and admissions made before the Lok Ayukta revealed that the encroachment allegations against the company was baseless, they said.
Stating that Tata Tea's minority holding in KDHP was to ensure that the new entity honoured the social charter of the the company, they said 12,794 employees of the plantation held 69 per cent of its stake while Tata Tea held 18 per cent,seven per cent by a trust and six per cent by others.
"Our credentials of developing the place for the people of Kerala stand vindicated. We are keen to carry on with the new model of development we have started in the area," the company officials added.