Vol. XL No. 45 November 06, 2016

Pinarayi Launches Paddy Cultivation on Land Set apart for Aranmula Airport

N S Sajith

ASSERTING that the proposed airport in Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district cannot be allowed in view of environmental concerns, the CPI(M)-led LDF government started on October 30 sowing of paddy on about 56 hectares of land acquired for the project, promoted by KGS Group. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan kick-started sowing on the land as locals and farmers cheered.

 “The LDF government is not against establishment of new airports. We only said the airport cannot be allowed here as it will mean destroying nature and environment. We do not want an airport here. There will be no change in this decision. The LDF government was keen on comprehensive development of the state”, Vijayan said. State agriculture minister V S Sunil Kumar and water resources minister Mathew P Thomas, and MLAs Raju Abraham and Veena George were among those present on the occasion.

The land where sowing began had been lying fallow for about two decades due to waterlogging. About 700 acres of land had been acquired for the project, which has faced protests from environmentalists and locals.

The National Green Tribunal had in 2014 set aside the environmental clearance given by the then UPA government to the project and directed KGS Aranmula International Airport Ltd, the promoters, to stop construction at the site. The tribunal had passed the order on a petition filed by the Aranmula Heritage Village Protection Action Council. The project also faced stiff resistance from devotees of Sri Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple.

In an affidavit filed in the Kerala High Court in August last, the state government had said it would examine whether a government order granting in-principle sanction to the airport project could be cancelled. It had also stated that the proposed project area constitutes large extent of paddy and wetland which cannot be legally converted for the purpose of a private company in view of existing legal provisions. Vijayan said production of food grains and other agricultural produce needed to be increased in the state.

In vegetable cultivation, there had been a huge change and this was felt during the 'Onam' season as prices did not go up. “We were able to intervene in the market. Normally during ‘Onam’, vegetable prices soar, but it did not happen this time,” the chief minister said.  

Blast at Malappuram Court, No casualty

A BLAST occurred near the First Class Judicial Magistrate’s Court in Malappuram on November 1. Three vehicles were damaged in the blast. However, no casualty was reported.  Some electronics equipment, a pressure cooker, battery and gun powder were found from the blast site.

A cardboard box with ‘The Base Movement’ written on it was found near the site. This is an alias of banned terrorist organisation Al-Umma. A map of India, a leaflet which carries an article which condemns the killing of Mohammed Akhlaq, a pen drive and a photograph of the killed al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden were found in this box. Senior police officers, along with bomb squad personnel, finger print experts and dog squad, were rushed to the site.

District Police Chief Debesh Kumar Behra said that traces of a pressure cooker filled with ammonium nitrate has been found. The battery found from the site was similar to that used in the blast at Kollam Collectorate on June 15. Same equipment was also used in blasts in Nellore in Andhra Pradesh and Bengaluru, police said.