With the state government increasing its efforts to clear the picturesque hill resort, Munnar of the encroachers and the politics between the opposition and the ruling front reaching new heights of rivalry, a senior official of Tata Tea, which is holding thousands of acres of plantations in the hill area, has come out with a book on what Munnar is all about and how a systematic game plan is unleashed to finish of the credibility of Tata Company in the state.
T Damu, Director of Kannan Devan Hill Plantations Pvt Ltd and one of the senior most officers of Tata Tea in South India who has written the book Munnar Records in a free-wheeling interview to Organiser said that Tata has been targeted in Munnar to create a foothold for Islamist land mafia in the area. Excerpts:
There are allegations that Tata has been one of the major encroachers in Munnar and that the state government will make all the efforts to clear all encroachments. Your comment on this.
Tata as you all know is one of the most reputed Indian companies with several contributions in the development of the Indian society. From the days of its founder fathers Tata as a whole is in total sync with the Indian establishment and not against it. So it is baseless to raise such an allegation against a group which has an impeccable track record throughout the country and abroad where it has entered into business. This allegation of land encroachment against Kannan Devan Tea and Tata is utterly baseless and is dismissed with all its contempt.
If your claim that there is no base in this allegation is accepted, then why is this hue and cry against your group on the land encroachment in Munnar?
I strongly believe that there is a major conspiracy against our company with a specific Islamist organisation raising this issue. A Malayalam newspaper which is the mouthpiece of the Jamaat-e-Islami has from day one started a smearing campaign against Tata on this issue and I feel that this is part of a major political agenda. The newspaper is now supported by a Malayalam news channel which is also having support of certain Islamic elements. I believe this is a concerted effort on the part of these groups to bring disreputation to an institution like Tata.
Tata has raised allegations that the Idukki District Collector has been playing an active role against Tata in the whole issue. Why have you come to such a conclusion?
I strongly believe that the Idukki District Collector is colluding with some political masters in this campaign against Tata. It seems that by targeting Tata these officials are creating a space to help some real encroachers wriggle out from the long hands of law. My stand is that no bureaucrat should take law in his hands and try to target a reputed group on the basis of some wrong inputs .
The state survey director has also come out against you on the land held by Tata. Your comments on this.
I have nothing to say other than that he has not studied the issue properly and has not done his homework before raising such false and malicious allegations. We have already written to the state government to give permission to prosecute the Idukki District Collector Ashok Kumar Singh, but we have yet to receive a response from the ministry concerned. I have to study what the survey director has said and then consult our legal experts to take the necessary action in this regard.
What is the role of the Tata Tea management in running the day-to-day activities of the company?
Tata Tea has only 18 per cent stakes in the Kannan Devan Hill Plantations Pvt Ltd with the rest of the share being held by the employees of the company right from the workers to the general manager. Even though I am a director of the company there are directors from among the workers and from among other employees. The staff has selected a best woman plucker as one of the directors and a best employee is another director. In all these proceedings we were mere spectators and had no role to play other than watching the proceedings from the sidelines.
What is the attitude of the trade unions on the issue of land encroachment?
We have three recognised trade unions in Kannan Devan Hill Plantations Pvt Ltd-CITU, AITUC and INTUC. All the three trade unions were in unison supporting the company in this issue.You may have read in newspapers about several senior trade union leaders from Munnar coming out strongly in support of the company and attacking even their political masters on this issue.
You have also raised another serious allegation in Munnar Records on mafia groups trying to gain control in Munnar. Can you elaborate?
An underworld don who is widely believed to have terror links has now sent his agents on a land-buying spree in Munnar. This is after the Kerala coastal line has been strengthened following the Mumbai attack and related steps have been taken to curb the terror moves. It may also be recalled that Tata has given employment to almost every one in Munnar and this has given us a major support base among the local people. The arrival of this mafia group is definitely for something against national interest and the local support base would not be there for such groups. These groups want to create a negative impression of Tata among the local people and try and exploit the situation to their advantage.
You may be aware of the Wagamon camp conducted by some terror groups and this camp is considered to be the one where all the decisions pertaining to serial bomb blasts in several parts of our country were taken. Wagamon is near Munnar and I need not say more on this.