Tamil Nadu minister denies land-grab, kidnap charges

July 30th, 2008 - 11:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Erode (Tamil Nadu), July 30 (IANS) Tamil Nadu Minister for Textiles N.K.K.P. Raja Wednesday vehemently denied charges he had kidnapped an elderly couple whose ancestral property he wanted to grab. The allegations were politically motivated, he claimed. “Anybody can use my name and accuse me of anything because I am a public figure. That doesn’t mean the charges are true,” Raja told reporters here.

The Madras High Court had ordered a middle-aged couple from a village near here to be housed under police protection in Chennai after a writ of habeas corpus resulted in their being produced by the police Monday before a division bench of the court.

The couple told the court in writing that the minister was attempting to grab their ancestral property and had held them against their will since June.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition and AIADMK boss J Jayalalitha condemned Raja’s continuation in the cabinet despite the serious charges recorded against him in the high court.

“If he has any sense of propriety, Raja should quit immediately,” Jayalalitha said in a statement.

Several reports of land-grabbing have appeared in the local media in this industrial region that produces roughly 25 percent of the nation’s machine and handwoven textile output, following the creation of a railway divisional headquarters in nearby Salem.

Power shortages, pollution of groundwater by effluents discharged from dyeing units that have left the land barren have resulted in several gangs attempting to exploit the situation to make a quick buck, locals said.

Situated in a 100-km radius - some 300 km southwest of Tamil Nadu capital Chennai - the twin textile districts of Erode and Salem were considered very prosperous till industrial pollution, power and water shortages rendered them almost unviable in financial terms.

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