Raging controversy over installing windmills by usurping tribal land at Sholayur in Attappady about a decade ago took a new turn on Monday with the local grama panchayat deciding to seek expert assistance from outside the State to remove 23 illegally erected wind power units.
The decision follows last week’s development in which grama panchayat authorities attached the wind power units and sealed off the control rooms.
Talking to The Hindu , panchayat secretary Nithin Kailas said such steps were initiated after owners of the wind power units refused to comply to the earlier order to stop generating power and remove the towers with immediate effect.
In the meantime, the panchayat has decided to approach Kerala High Court seeking a directive against the companies which refuse to remove their wind power units and return the usurped land to original tribal owners. The move assumes significance as private windmill owners also opting to fight in court to avoid removal of the units. It was during last week, the panchayat had removed the entrance gate of each windmill unit apart from sealing off the control rooms. Officials are planning to start the removal works by next week. Services of experts from Karantaka and Tamil Nadu would be availed to remove the units.
Though the panchayat has to spend about Rs 1 crore for uninstalling and removing the units, significant amount can be raised by reselling the removed windmills.
The panchayat is also required to solicit expert opinion on where the uninstalled units can be kept till the buyers arrive. It also has to reach out to prospective buyers.
The latest move was in response to the Accountant General’s query why no tax was collected from the controversial power generating units, which continued to feed the generated power to the grid of the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) till last week.
It was pointed out that all the windmill towers had been installed without permission from the local body. No tax was paid to the government since they were set up.
As per rules, each wind power generating unit had to pay Rs.70,000 as annual tax. As each unit occupied 120 sq.m, they would have to pay land tax, too.
Even in the last Assembly election, tribal land encroachment by the wind power companies was one of the key campaign issues of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF), but the dispute over the alienation of 85.21 acres of tribal land remains unresolved.
Though four years have elapsed since the then Palakkad District Collector K.V. Mohankumar discovered the role of some government officials 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 steps to restore the land to the tribespeople.
The AG’s order has now prompted the local body to take action. According to official documents accessed by The Hindu, the 85.21 acres of land was part of the 374.48 acres that Sarjan Realities Ltd., a subsidiary of Suzlon, had acquired at Attappady where Suzlon Energy had installed 31 windmills.
The windmills were later sold to some film personalities and entrepreneurs. Among the 31 windmills, those coming under the Sholayur panchayat are now facing action.
Other than Sholayur, Kottathara and Agali villages too have illegal wind power units.
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