Aranmula, Kerala: As protests against the setting up of a private airport at Aranmula in Kerala`s Pathanamthitta district go on, promoters of the greenfield project have dismissed the allegation of land grab and said vested interests are behind the controversy.
Since last week, people living around the site of Kerala`s fifth airport are protesting against a notification issued by the state industries department declaring 500 acres of land spread across the Mallappuzhasserry, Kidangannur and Aranmula villages as an industrial area.
The promoters, Chennai-based KGS Group, have acquired 350 acres and are looking for some more. The protesters are demanding that the government cancel the notification in the larger interests of protecting hundreds of villagers.
"We are demanding transparency, especially in the land transactions. They claim that they have purchased 350 acres of land, which we have found out is not true. The villagers are also surprised to know that the previous Left government had notified 500 acres of land near here as an industrial area. People are against eviction and that is what the villagers are up in arms against," said CPI (M) legislator A Padmakumar, who is leading the protesters.
But Gigi George of KGS said it was absolutely baseless to say that the group went ahead with the project without having land in the airport`s name.
"The truth of the matter is that 350 acres of land have been registered in the name of KGS Aranmula Greenfield Airport. The only thing that has not happened is that the mutation of the land that has been registered has not taken place. The district collector has given direction to the Revenue Department last month to complete the mutation," George said over telephone from Chennai.
The KGS Group has also pointed out that even though the 500 acres have been notified as an industrial area only industries connected with the airport would come up in the area.
"There will not be any eviction or compulsory acquisition or displacement of any houses, commercial areas or worship places," said the group in a press release.
The airport at Aranmula is billed as a boon to Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, Idukki and some parts of Alappuzha districts, which together receive around 21 per cent of foreign tourists and 14 per cent domestic tourists who come to the state.
Padmakumar said villagers were not against development and they just wanted transparency in the land deal.
He said the district collector was likely to call a meeting of all stake holders of the project on Dec 23. "Let us see what happens at the meeting."