Kerala land survey in final stage, Tata Tea in spotlight

April 13th, 2008 - 9:03 pm ICT by admin  


Thiruvananthapuram, April 13 (IANS) Even as the Poonjar royal family has moved court to get back its land which is currently on lease to Tata Tea and to Kannan Devan Hills Plantations Co (KDHPC), the Kerala government has reached the last phase of land survey at Munnar, where Tata is the biggest landholders. Speaking to IANS, Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran said the survey was being carried out on the direction of the Kerala High Court.

“Of the 31 blocks that have to be surveyed, 27 are covered. The survey is going on in two blocks and the remaining two will be covered soon. The present field survey comes after the National Remote Sensing Agency in Hyderabad has already finished its work,” said Rajendran.

Last week, P. Sundararajan, husband of Revathinal Kanakamani Thampuratti of the Poonjar royal family, said a notice had been served to both Tata and KDHPC Jan 7 this year and a civil suit was filed with the Devikulam court March 28.

According to the family, the Travancore government’s commissioner John Daniel Munroe approached the Poonjar royal family July 11, 1877, and executed a lease agreement No. 733 of 1877 with Poonjattil Koickal Rohini Thirunal Kerala Varma Valiya Raja, paid security deposit of British Rs.5000, and agreed to pay annual lease rent of British Rs.3000 for the leased land of 136,600 acres.

In 1895, the land was bought over by British company James Finlay and Co, which owned it till 1977 when the Kerala government took over the land under the Land Reforms Act and the Kannan Devan Hills Resumption Land Act.

After keeping 70,522 acres, the government gave the remaining land on lease to Tata Finlay Ltd, which was acquired by Tata Tea in 1983.

However, the royal family now claims that it cancelled the lease agreement and the notices have been served to Tata, which currently possesses the land.

Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achutananandan has said the excess land possessed by Tata Tea will be recovered.

“There is no question of any controversy. Once the survey is over, all will know how much excess land is there and it will be distributed to the forest, agriculture and the diary departments,” said Rajendran.

Last year, Tata Tea managing director P.T. Siganporia categorically denied the charge repeatedly made by Achuthanandan that the company had encroached government land in the hill town of Munnar.

According to the Tatas, they possess 58,741.82 acres, which they are allowed to retain under the Kannan Devan Hill (Resumption of Lands) Act, 1971.

Achuthanandan, on the other hand, alleges that the company possesses thousands of acres more than that.

In July last year, he led an operation in Munnar which “recovered” extra land allegedly encroached by Tata Tea. However, the Tatas denied that the land belonged to them.

Reports indicate that the state government is determined to complete survey and take action if necessary before May 18, when the Achuthanandan government celebrates two years in office.

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