The much-touted Ravindran pattayams (title deeds) in ecologically fragile Idukki district are expected to be regularised by the Kerala Government very soon. It should be around 10,000 acres that will get legal sanctity through this.
And this comes close on the heels of the move to regularise land holdings of up to 15 cents with buildings of 1,500 sq ft plinth area. All these could spell disaster to the area which already faced the wrath of the August 2018 flood, where unbridled construction, denuding forest wealth and land fragmentation which destroys its character have made it vulnerable to ecological disasters.
Flex boards have come up at different places in Devikulam in the district heralding the decision to regularise the title deeds sanctioned nearly two decades ago by the then official MI Ravindran in his capacity as Deputy Tahasildar, thus earning the name of Ravindran pattayams. The hoardings are all praise for the Revenue Minister and the Chief Minister for taking the `bold’ decision.
It will be roughly 430 title deeds covering around 10,000 acres that will be get regularised through this decision and political leaders in Idukki say orders have been passed. This explains the putting up of flex boards, it is claimed.
However, revenue officials contacted by Pennews say they have not received any such order though they admit that it appears to be in the offing. A top official, on condition of anonymity, added that there is a `single point’ where such decisions are taken and even those associated with the revenue ministry are often kept in the dark.
Ravindran had been at the receiving end ever since the 2007 Clean Munnar Operations began under the VS Achuthadanandan regime. Out to clear the tourist town of Munnar of encroachments, the then government brought down several illegal constructions in Munnar town. But with the lack of support from the party leadership and a strong lobby in Munnar turning against the Government, the initiative met with premature death.
It was then that the issue of Ravindran pattayams came up with claims from a section in the government that they were bogus. It was on the basis that these were issued by Ravindran who was given charge in 1999, but since there was no gazette notification, sanction for deeds cleared by a deputy tahsildar were not made. Even VS made such a claim but later retracted saying some of them were bogus. It was then that Ravindran came out with a sarcastic comment that he had three daughters and all were original.
There were issues as some of the records were manipulated and issued under the guise of Ravindran pattayams in the Kanan Devan Hill Development Plantations. However, action was taken and some of the land recovered. If they were bogus, the Government should declare them null and void and go in for fresh assessment, which it is not doing, `vindicating my stand’, Ravindran told Pennews.
The issue at stake, according to greens in the area, is that deeds were on the basis of allotting limited land to the needy only for agriculture and housing purposes. But several of these lands are being used for other purposes. They point out to resorts being run on such land given even to some of the top CPM leaders there.
This is potential vote bank as distribution of title deeds musters people’s support that can get reflected through votes. Environmental matters turn insignificant. Floods, mudslides, drought are of least concern. Very soon, on these lands will sprouts resorts and lodges as other hill stations in neighbouring Tamil Nadu like Ooty and Kodaikkanal which have started getting warmer, adding `great potential’ to Munnar and other areas in Idukki district.