Kottayam: Revenue minister E Chandrasekharan played down a senior bureaucrat’s warning that a delimitation of the Neelakurinji national park in Idukki district would shrink the biological reserve. He said the delimitation was intended to identify any squatters and not against the rightful settlers.
The move to redraw the boundaries would result in shrinking of the notified area by at least 1,200 hectares, additional chief secretary (revenue) P H Kurien said on Thursday during a meeting attended by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the revenue minister which decided to demarcate the boundaries of the reserve in the Devikulam taluk.
The revenue department stirred a hornet’s nest when the Devikulam subcollector canceled the ownership rights on 20 acres of land allegedly encroached by Joice George MP and his family. The department and the CPI which mans the portfolio had come under sharp criticism from local CPM leaders.
The revenue minister rejected the argument of Kurien, who was authorized to conduct a survey to identify the extent of habitations, institutions and places of worship within the notified area. “That was just Kurien’s opinion. He does not have any authority to make a statement,” Chandrasekharan said on Friday.
He said the government was not handling the issue with any prejudices. “The claim of 3,200 hectares has not been notified based on any survey. We are trying to find out the real extent of the reserve. Genuine land owners will not be evicted when we demarcate the reserve. We only want to find out if there are encroachers in the reserve. There is no hidden agenda behind it.”
He also said that he would discuss the issue with people’s representatives in the locality along with ministers M M Mani and K Raju.