Special Judge (Vigilance) and Enquiry Commissioner, Kottayam, S Soman has directed the Vigilance and Anti–Corruption Bureau (VACB) Director to conduct an inquiry into the complaint filed by Kummanam Rajashekharan, Patron of Aranmula Heritage Village Karma Samithi and State general secretary of Hindu Aikya Vedi.
Kummanam Rajashekharan had filed a complaint before the Special Judge (Vigilance) on the violations of law that have occurred in the filling of paddy fields, wetlands and a river in Aranmula for the construction of a private Airport in Aranmula. The Judge directed the Vigilance Director to submit the report before March 14, 2013.
The first seven respondents of the case are the officials of the Revenue and Irrigation Departments, who have been in office since 2008.
Aranmula Aviation Limited chairman KK Jose, Aranmula Aviation Limited director Kalamannil Abraham Joseph, KGS Aranmula Airport Limited CEO T Nandakumar, KGS Aranmula Airport Limited’s board of director member and Mount Zion Airport Services board of director members are the other respondents. The complainant said that the respondents violated various rules, including the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008, the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 and the Kerala Land Use Act, 2002.
The Aranmula Airport, named KGS Aranmula Greenfield International Airport and promoted by KGS Group, which according to the profile in the website, states that the Reliance has 15 per cent share in the company, is situated close to the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple, which is considered to be the second largest Sree Krishna temple in Kerala after the noted Guruvayur Temple.
The Aranmula Heritage Village Karma Samithi and Hindu Aikya Vedi, an affiliate of the RSS, led by its state organising secretary Kummanam Rajashekharan has been in the forefront of the people’s movement, which is opposing the construction of the airport project in Aranmula surrounded by lush green paddy fields and wetlands.
According to the details put up by the promoting company KGS holdings in its website, not less than five hundred acres of minimum land is required for the development of the Aranmula Airport in its first phase. This would require the levelling of paddy fields and wetlands, which would result in a major environmental problem. The levelling of paddy fields and wetlands would require huge quantity of soil and for this small hills in and around the project area would be demolished, again creating major environmental impact to the surrounding area.
Five temples other than the Aranmula Parthasarathy temple are situated in this area, which have to be demolished for the proposed Airport to become a reality. Sacred groves like Aringottukavu and Thechikavu are also in the project area of the airport project.
Other than creating problems to environment and to disturb the ecological balance of the area, the airport project has nothing much to achieve. The Hindu Aikya Vedi leader Kummanam Rajashekaran while speaking to Organiser said, “An airport at Aranmula is not at all required, its the greed and the lust of certain persons, which is leading to the disturbance of the ecological system and also creating problem to the serene atmosphere of the Aranmula temple.”
The local people who have united cutting across party lines are of the opinion that for the airport around, 58 acres of land has already been levelled. Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly and former Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan had already reached Aranmula and called upon the farmers in the area to reclaim the levelled 58 acres of paddy field and to restart the cultivation.
Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha Prof PJ Kurien, local Member of Parliament Anto Antony and the Pathanamthitta MLA K Sivadasan Nair are the proponents of the airport project stating that the airport project will lead to the all-round development of the area and that this would give direct and indirect employment to thousands of people. The airport project promoters have also been claiming that the Airport would be a boon to the pilgrims, who come to the hill shrine Sabarimala.
Incidentally, Advocate MP Govindan Nair, the newly appointed president of the Travancore Dewaswom Board, which manages the Sabarimala Ayyapa temple, has, while speaking to reporters after assuming the office, stated that the Airport in Aranmula is not required for the pilgrims reaching Sabarimala.
According to the opponents of the Airport, the project cannot be conceived and that there is a ploy by the proponents of the Airport project, KGS group to first get the sanction for the Airport project and later increase the land bank thus felicitating a major land bank and later to jack up the prices of the land holdings in and around the Airport area.
Kerala has already got three full fledged airports in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode and the Government has already sanctioned the Kannur airport project for the most northern part of the state including people from Kannur and Kasargod districts, and parts of Kozhikode districts which are closer to Kannur district. However, there is no reasoning for the sanctioning of an airport at Aranmula as there are two airports, Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi for the people, who are the targeted travellers from this airport and both these airports are not far away from Pathanamthitta district, where Aranmula airport project is conceived.
Kummanam Rajashekaran, while speaking to Organiser further said, “This airport project will ruin the semblance and serenity of Aranmula Parthasarathy temple. The mast pole infront of the temple has to be changed as this would create a hindrance for the taking off and landing of the aircrafts if the airport project gets cleared, which would mean that the sanctum sanctity of the temple is lost.”
Interestingly, both the CPI-M and the Congress are divided on this issue with the CPI-M leader and former Chief Minister of Kerala VS Achuthanandan coming up to Aranmula to express his stiff opposition to the airport project, while his colleague and former MLA from this area, KC Rajagopal, a senior leader of the CPI-M has been one of the proponents of the airport project. In fact, in the last assembly elections he had even listed the Aranmula airport project as one of his achievements as a legislator.
While the Congress leader and Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Prof PJ Kurien, is leading the group of Congressmen supporting the airport project, a section of the party leaders including former party legislator Maleth Saraladevi and former District Congress chief Pheelippose Thomas stringent in their objection to the project.
It may however be recalled that it was the Left Front government, led by Achuthanandan, which had given the sanction and go ahead for the Airport project, while the present Congress-led UDF is accelerating the pace for setting up of the airport.