Names of undeserving too creep into resettlement scheme for landowners within forest areas

Kollam: Allegations of corruption and large-scale irregularities have been reported in the implementation of a voluntary scheme aimed at rehabilitating those families who live on their private land in the forest areas as part of the Rebuild Kerala Initiative undertaken with the help of the World Bank and the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board.

The names of many ineligible people have crept into the voluntary rehabilitation scheme for private parties living in forest areas. Irregularities worth crores of rupees have already come to the fore.

Some of the landowners have already approached the High Court of Kerala and the Governor of Kerala, complaining that all these irregularities were committed by the land mafia with the connivance of the Forest and Revenue Department officials.

As per the scheme, those who are having up to two hectares of land will get a compensation of Rs 15 lakh. In addition to this amount, each adult member of the family would get Rs 15 lakh.

Those who have land above two hectares of land, each additional hectare of land will be considered as a single household unit and will be given Rs 15 lakh. If there is only land, only Rs 15 lakh will be given.

The order with regard to the project was issued on November 14, 2019. With the connivance of the officials, many new land transactions were registered. Some people registered a portion of their land in the name of their relatives and then applied for the voluntary scheme. There are others who have applied for the scheme after including the names of relatives in their ration cards. But no steps were taken by the officials to unearth such irregularities.

Some of the residents of Rosemala in Kollam alleged that middlemen had lured a section of landowners and usurped their land by entering into an agreement that they would give the amount of compensation to the landowners when they receive it from the government.

Many instances of insertion of names in the list of beneficiaries of those who are not permanent residents in the area have also come out.

The State Government came up with the scheme at a cost of Rs 105.91 crore in 2019 to ensure the rehabilitation of 683 families living in 21,837 hectares of land in Idukki, Wayanad, Kollam, Kasaragod and Kollam districts.

The total cost for the total project, which included works such as taking over estates and setting up mangrove forests in more areas, was estimated to be Rs 130 crore. In Marayur alone, the rehabilitation of 92 families living in 78.72 hectares of land was planned.

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