UDF Moots Law On Paddy Land
The United Democratic Front (UDF) high-power committee on Tuesday recommended a comprehensive law to plug all loopholes in the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008. The Cabinet decision to regularise all conversion of paddy land prior to 2005 will be put on hold.
The UDF apparently took the decision in view of the High Court judgment of January 18 which made it clear that retrospective effect could not be given to the 2008 Act. The High Court judgment had created some confusion, mainly because there were several cases related to sanction for conversion of land for residential purposes under the 2005 and 2008 laws.
Loopholes in 2008 Act
The UDF meeting came to the conclusion that there were several loopholes in the 2008 Act that had put limits on small conversions but permitted large-scale conversion of land. Explaining the core of the decision, UDF convener P.P. Thankachan said that large tracts of land were converted using the loopholes in the 2008 Act, but those who had utilised paddy land for residential purposes were left high and dry because on record it was paddy land. It is in this context that the UDF has recommended a comprehensive law that would address all these issues, even while upholding the basic policy perspective of conservation of paddy and wetland. “If necessary, we would consider bringing in an ordinance,” he said.
With regard to the Nelliampathy estate takeover, the committee asked its subcommittee to visit the area at the earliest for a hands-on evaluation of the situation, conduct hearings of farmers and farm workers, and submit its report within a month in time for the next meeting of the UDF.
Another round of talks
The subcommittee, headed by M.M. Hassan of the Congress, could not undertake its task owing to the Assembly session. Another round of discussion would be held on the basis of the report. The meeting imposed a ban on public statements on the issue till the matter is sorted out by the coalition leadership.
Mr. Thankachan maintained that the Nelliampathy estate takeover was a legal issue. Even after the UDF subcommittee submits its report, the government may take the final call on the status of the land owing to the legal ramifications related to expiry of lease period and violation of lease terms by the estate owners.
Government Chief Whip P. C. George, who had refused to be part of the subcommittee at the time when it was set up, has now been included on it on the basis of the unanimous opinion that he should be on it.