Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan tells KA SHAJI that the government’s anti-encroachment drive in Munnar would not fizzle out and that the law will also apply on the Tatas

Why are you turning against Tata? Will it affect Kerala’s image as an industry friendly state?

Who said I am against industry and against Tata? They can continue their activities in a legal manner here. Our objection is only related to their encroachment on government land. Kerala is the first state in India that launched radical land reforms. We have to continue it. Instead of raising obstacles, Tata must cooperate with the government by returning excess land in its possession. We are now taking action as they are not ready to respond positively. There would not be a separate law for Tata and another law for the rest of the world. My stand is clear and transparent.

Then why this controversy regarding your taking over of ‘Tata land’?

There is a concerted attempt on the part of vested interests to torpedo my government’s Munnar mission. We have taken action against big sharks including Tata after proper discussions in the cabinet and the Left Democratic Front (LDF). We are one in the mission. But Tata is prompting vested interests to wreck the unity in Left movement in favour of the Munnar mission. They would not succeed. My colleagues said nothing contradictory. The Opposition was misinterpreting what they said. Our mission in Munnar including taking over of excess land from Tata would continue.

Are you optimistic about success in Munnar?

Yes. I am optimistic. We will bring all encroachers including Tata Tea to book. There will be no special favour to any one. All the encroached land would be taken back and vested with the government. Then the landless poor would get their share from it; priority would be given to landless Adivasis and Dalits.

What is the level of encroachment?

Munnar comprises 1,37,000 acres of land. Of it, only 57,000 acres were earmarked for Tata to cultivate tea, bring up trees for firewood and construct cottages for their workers. Another 20,000 acres were earmarked for the Iravikulam National Park. What happened to the rest of the land? Tata must explain. Why are they opposing survey of land in Munnar? They are a worried lot as my government started acting against them. So far, no government had acted against Tata.

Will the action against Tata turn a challenge to your government?

Never. The Opposition is trying to create a smokescreen. My party and the Left Democratic Front are unanimous against any kind of encroachment. The central leadership of my party has complimented the government for its success in Munnar and for the Smart City deal.

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