Its rare to hear of a hospital project facing protests, but in Kerala the CPM cadre has chosen to march red flag in hand to occupy paddy fields that have been claimed for a Rs 100 crore health city project near Kochi saying that they would allow nothing but paddy farming there.
Termed the "the second land reforms movement" by party, hundreds of CPM activists marched to tracts of land across the state and reclaimed them ostensibly for redistribution, because they are allegedly in violation of the Land Reforms Act in the state.
Speaking to protesters at Vadakkanchery in Thrissur district, CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said the stir would be intensified if the UDF government refrained from retrieving the land identified by the campaigners.
Vijayan said there had been concerted efforts by “land mafia” with the support of the government to sabotage the land reform legislation, which set ceiling of 15 acres for non-plantation land to be possessed by a family. He said the move to upset the legislation that restricted reclamation of paddy fields and wetlands was also a matter of grave concern.
In Pathanamthitta district , the cadre occupied a paddy field acquired for an airport.
Near Kochi, CPM activists marched to the 150 acres of land acquired by Kochi Medical City Tourism Private Limited for its Rs 100 crore health city project and party veteran VS Achuthanandan claimed it was a "movement against the land mafia bid to convert paddy fields for real estate ventures."
He also told the health city's brand ambassador, Kapil Dev, to take a hike.
"“Kapil Dev and the company can go to Mumbai or Gujarat. Give up the dreams to set up the company here,” Achuthanandan said at the rally.
What perhaps is surprising is that the land holding has been with the company for the last few years and it isn't exactly the latest development.
"The paddy field had been under cultivation until five years ago, when the company had bought the land from the farmers possessing the holdings," a Times of India report noted.
The company officials also pointed out that they had obtained the land legally and would quit the project if the faced further legal trouble. The promoters had sought protection from the court but failed to get it and all the state government did was promise action against those occupying lands illegally.
The CPM's agitation has been timed to oppose the Congress-led state government's decision to allow five percent of land for plantations for other purposes including tourism.
But whether the acquired land will be redistributed among the poor or will be used merely to pressurise land owners and corporates in the state remains to be seen. One thing's for sure, the Kerala court's can see a lot more appeals as those who have paid for these properties will not be very pleased if the government doesn't restore the land back to them.
(with inputs from PTI)
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Updated Date: Jan 02, 2013 18:52:26 IST