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No action yet to reclaim tribal land

Despite it was one of the key campaign issues of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) in the last Assembly election, the dispute over the alienation of 85.21 acres of tribal land at Attappady at the behest of certain windmill companies during the reign of the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) government remains unresolved.

Though four years have gone since the then Palakkad District Collector K.V. Mohankumar found some government officials’ role in fabricating documents and a committee headed by the Chief Secretary recommended reclamation of the land and disciplinary action against the officials, the UDF government has not taken any step to restore the land to the tribespeople.

The companies are still in possession of the land and power from the windmills is flowing to the grid of the Kerala State Electricity Board.

According to official documents accessed by The Hindu , the 85.21 acres of land was part of the 374.48 acres that Sarjan Realities Limited, a subsidiary of Suzlon, had acquired in Attappady where Suzlon Energy had installed 31 windmills. The windmills were later sold to some film personalities and entrepreneurs.

Following protests by the UDF in the wake of the findings of the Chief Secretary, the then Electricity Minister A.K. Balan admitted that the windmill companies had encroached on tribal and forest land in Kottathara, Sholayur and Agali villages. The Integrated Tribal Development Project Officer of Attappady also submitted reports confirming the encroachment. The Collector suggested a comprehensive inquiry.

“Top UDF leaders reached Nallasinka in Attappady in July 2010 to lead an agitation demanding reclamation of the tribal land.

They later led a delegation of tribesmen to Delhi and met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi for their intervention,” says M. Sukumaran, convener, Attappady Samrakshana Samithy. But nothing happened even after the UDF came to power.

Though the government had suspended four government officials and three officials of the Attappady Hill Area Development Society in connection with the case, all of them had returned to service later, he said.