The Left government’s final decision to acquire 2,262 acres of estate land from Cheruvally estate for the proposed Sabarimala Airport in pathanamthitta,o Kerala, has once again strengthened the doubts if the said project was for allegedly bailing out the estate owners.
Even before the land to be acquired was officially announced, the Believers Church had allegedly known about the project much earlier. This was quite evident from the submission that they made before the Kerala High Court in 2016. In the submission, they had said about the state government’s proposal to establish an airport in the nearby place. The submission finds mention in the High Court order related to cutting of trees in the estate for drawing electric line from Kanjirapally to Erumely Sub Station (proposed). However, it was only in 2017, a year after the Court order that the government had entrusted a four member panel under then Revenue Secretary P H Kurian to identify a suitable place for the proposed airport.
Moreover, the panel had only identified Cheruvally Estate as the most suitable land for the Greenfield airport whereas several stretches of land in nearby locations have been left out, which only added to the suspicion. All these only raise the doubt if Cheruvally had already been fixed for Sabari Airport, sources said. Highly placed sources said that Cheruvally owners only wanted to sell the property and had allegedly engaged in a secret political understanding for compensation. They alleged that the Left Government’s decision to take land from Cheruvally was only a conspiracy to legitimise the land grab by a plantation major.
The sources said that the doubts have now been cleared that the government wanted the Airport to come up only in Cheruvally and not in any other region. The question here is how could the estate owners come to know that an airport is coming up near their land even before the government had constituted a committee for identifying the land.
A former Minister was quoted in the media earlier that someone from kannur had approached him in 2016 for holding a study on the proposed Sabarimala Airport in the area where the estate was located. The Minister was quoted as saying that he had then asked the person who had authorized him to hold the Study but did not receive an answer. The same was also raised in the Kerala Assembly.
With the government now giving nod for acquiring the estate, the question that is being raised is how the Church authorities in 2016 could know that their land was going to be taken for an airport long time before any decision on the airport was finalised, the sources said and that it still remained a mystery.
The land that is now being considered to be taken back is part of the 5,200 acres that was taken over by the Special officer, Land Resumption, as part of the drive against illegal land holdings in the state. The 2,263 acres of land proposed to be taken over for the Airport was bought by the Church in 2005 from Harrisons Malayalam Plantations, which the government says was an illegal transaction.