Is the Left government in Kerala going to rewrite the landscape of Western Ghats? The Pinarayi Vijayan government, which had in recent times been involved in many a land controversy, is reported to be moving ahead with rewriting the Kerala Land Assignment Act, allowing mining in such lands.
The Left government, which had considered the same amendments after it came to power but dropped in between, has now given the nod for changing the rules so that the rocks and hills in assigned forest lands could be mined. The file for amending the Kerala Land Assignment Rules, 1964, is now in the Chief Minister’s office.
The revenue department has forwarded the amendment to the Chief Minister’s office and is awaiting the final decision. Highly placed sources said that the Chief Minister’s office is for speeding up the amendment process and want to be brought out at the earliest. Though the revenue department had some reservations against the move, the decision to amend the rules was taken at a high level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in December 2018. The Land Revenue Commissioner was asked to look into changing the Rules so as to allow mining the rocks and hills in assigned lan
In the draft amendment submitted by the Revenue Department, it is learned that they had made some suggestions for protecting the present structure of the land assigned. However, it has to be seen how these suggestions are going to be taken up by the Chief Minister’s office. Moreover, the law department is said to have already given the nod for brining in amendment to the Rules.
The Kerala Land Assignment Rules (1964) specify that the lands provided under these Rules should never be used for any other use other than agriculture and housing. The Rules also specify that the assignment could be cancelled if the land was used for any other purpose and if rules are violated.
The LDF had considered the amendment in 2018 but had slowed down the process. In 2019, they have again put up the file for amending the assignment rules at the instance of Chief Minister. It is known that the Chief Minister had directly given the instruction for bringing in the amendment of allowing mining in assigned lands.
The amendment was first brought in by the former Oomman Chandy government in 2015. But the government had to cancel the amendment after the issue became much controversial. Moreover, it was in the last days of his government that such an amendment was framed and elections were declared by that time.
It is quite a paradox that the Left government, which had been instrumental in bringing in many land reforms, are now thinking of scuttling the laws for the mining and land mafia. The quarry mafia is known to have exerted much pressure on the Communists leaders for changing the laws in their favour. And if the rules are amended, it would only lead to legalising all the illegal quarries now operating in the Western Ghats.