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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

Why are young bureaucrats struggling to complete their tenures in Kerala’s Devikulam

A misty tour destination near Munnar and surrounding areas are notorious for land sharks and often bureaucrats and politicians cross swords over them.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2019 09:40 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
One of the IAS officers Sriram Venkataraman stirred protests in the area and even a public threat from controversial Kerala minister and local strongman, MM Mani.
One of the IAS officers Sriram Venkataraman stirred protests in the area and even a public threat from controversial Kerala minister and local strongman, MM Mani.(HT File Photo)
         

In the last nine years, 16 IAS officers have served Devikulam, a tourist destination in Idukki district, and none of them have completed their terms. No, it is not the cold clime, but ‘pressure’ which ejects most of them. Notorious for land-grabbers, the latest to get marching orders is young IAS officer Dr Renu Raj, a doctor-turned-bureaucrat, who took on the land mafia by horns.

In February this year law-maker from the area S Rajendran (CPM) had stirred a hornet’s nest when he allegedly showered verbal abuses on the Devikilam sub-collector after she razed an illegal construction. “She doesn’t have brains. If you have three letters, ‘I A S’, don’t think you know everything. People who study only to become a collector will have only so much brain,” he was heard slamming the officer publicly in a video that turned viral later.

Though the party distanced from the controversial comments and sought an explanation from the MLA it was almost sure the gutsy officer will be out any time. The second rank holder in the 2014 civil services examination she survived in the post for nine months. But before she left she commented on the rampant land grabbing saying. “I have evicted 90 encroachments in 9 months. Land-grabbing is a cancerous disease crippling the hill station,” she said. She has been transferred to the public administration department. The Kerala government maintains that it was a routine transfer and not too much should be read into it.

Infact after the LDF government came to power in 2016 five sub collectors, Sabin Sameed, NTL Reddy, Sriram Venkitaraman, V R Prem Kumar and Renu Raj have been transferred from Devikulam. Among them only Sriram Venkitaraman had completed one-year in office. One of them NTL Reddy hardly got one-month. Whether it is the UDF or LDF, fate is same for upright officers, bureaucrats confide privately, unwilling to come on record.

The government insiders said Renu was marked after she identified a number of encroachments including the alleged land-grabbing by the former Idukki MP Joyce George. She had cancelled the title deeds of some of his properties.

But the last straw for George came from Renu when she cancelled the title deed of multi-storied resort building in Pallivasal. Interestingly, the builder of the multi-storied resort owned by Varkey group had also built one of the four flats in Kochi set to face the axe of demolition after the Supreme Court rap.

A misty tour destination near Munnar and surrounding areas are notorious for land sharks and often bureaucrats and politicians cross swords over them. Following reports of large-scale land encroachments in 2011 the Kerala High Court had made a no objection certificate from the revenue department mandatory for any construction in Munnar and surrounding areas but encroachments continued. In 2007 VS Achuthanandan government had carried out a massive demolition drive razing razed many illegal constructions to the ground. But it continued after a brief pause.

After 12-year probe the crime branch had filed a charge-sheet against M M Lambodharan, state power minister M M Mani’s brother, last week for land encroachment allegedly faking documents in Chinnakanal in the district. At least 22 persons were named as accused in the charge-sheet for allegedly grabbing four acres of prime land. Noting unusual, some of the party offices at the hill station are situated on encroached land, vouch local residents.

“There is a nexus between land maifia and political class. Almost all political parties are part of this. If you toe their line you can survive. But young bureaucrats who failed to fall in this trap are admonished regularly,” said senior journalist M J Babu, hailing from the area, adding often judicial orders were flouted with impunity.

“Recurring transfer of young officials will affect their morale. It is the duty of the government to protect upright officers,” said state opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala referring to the spate of transfers in Devikulam. But the state government denied any “witch-hunt” and said the transfer of the Devikulam sub-collector was routine as part of the bureaucratic reshuffle.

First Published: Sep 28, 2019 09:32 IST

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