VS' Munnar pointsman Suresh Kumar says 'Raveendran Pattayams' have no legal sanctity

VS' Munnar pointsman Suresh Kumar says 'Raveendran Pattayams' have no legal sanctity
Suresh Kumar IAS

Kottayam: Who will bell the cat? This was the question that resonated in the corridors of power in 2007 when the three "cats" sent by the then Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan began cleaning-up operations in Munnar by demolishing unauthorised buildings and evicting illegal encroachers. The main brain behind Munnar operations was former IAS officer K Suresh Kumar. IPS officer Rishiraj Singh and IAS Officer Raju Narayanaswamy were the other members of the special task force. The mighty encroachers, with the backing of powerful political leadership, came out in open to bell the cats.

The land and resort mafia and their political masters went into jittery when Achuthanandan's "cats" started pinpointing faults in "Raveendran Pattayams" which hitherto gave a sort of authenticity to otherwise illegally erected party offices of both the CPM and the CPI in Munnar. The same people who had sent them to Munnar became their arch-rivals and soon began scheming on how to get rid of them.

The moment he came to know about the high-level conspiracy to torpedo the Munnar Mission, Suresh Kumar quietly descended the Devikulam hills. Soon, he quit the IAS and preferred to go on a low profile. Now, he is running an international school in Nettayam near Thiruvananthapuram city. With another controversy over "Raveendran Pattayams" hitting the headlines, Suresh Kumar now speaks to Manorama about his unfinished Munnar Mission and the controversies surrounding "Raveendran Pattayams".

VS' Munnar pointsman Suresh Kumar says 'Raveendran Pattayams' have no legal sanctity
An illegal construction being demolished in Munnar. File photo

The State Government is planning to legalise "Raveendran Pattayams". WIll it have legal sanctity?

The High Court has said many times that "Raveendran Pattayams" have no legal sanctity. I feel that there is truth in the allegation that the unlawful "Raveendran Pattayams" have now been cancelled with an idea to issue fresh "pattayams", or title deeds, to regularise the unauthorised buildings.

It is said that "Raveendran Pattayams" sounded the death knell of the Munnar operations launched by the special task force. Is this correct? Why is it that the political leadership has a penchant for "Raveendran Pattayms"?

I don't agree with the view that "Raveendran Pattayams" led to the winding up of the Munnar Mission. As per the land assignment Act, an official in the rank of a Tahsildar can only issue "pattayams". MI Raveendran was then a Deputy Tahsildar. So, the title deeds issued by Raveendran have no validity. The people's panel, which looked into the merit of the applications submitted for land assignment decades ago, found that CPI leader PK Vasudevan Nair did not own land of his own even when he was the Chief Minister. So, it was decided to assign land to him in Munnar. In the same way, the committee found CPM leader and former Minister MM Mani as another person eligible for "pattayam" in Munnar. But most of those who got "Raveendran Pattayams" constructed multi-storey resorts in the land assigned to them. This was found as a serious violation of law by our special team.

VS' Munnar pointsman Suresh Kumar says 'Raveendran Pattayams' have no legal sanctity
P K Vasudevan Nair

The Munnar special task force decided to cancel "Raveendran Pattayams" first. Why ?

Even at the time of the Oommen Chandy Ministry prior to the VS Government, there was a Vigilance inquiry into "Raveendran Pattayams". The special task force got the Vigilance report that stated that there was no legal backing for "Raveendran Pattayams". The same issue came up before us. We took action. Most of the multi-storey buildings in Munnar still have "Raveendran Pattayams".

But before acting against "Raveendran Pattayams", the special task force demolished the CPI office in Munnar. This made the CPI, which was then ruling the Revenue Department, turn its ire against your team. Do you think now that it was a strategically wrong move?

The portion of the CPI office that encroached the National Highway was removed by the NH Authority. They gave the required notice to CPI well in advance. It was not done as per the directive of our team. Our team was appointed to evict encroachments in Munnar. The NH authorities gave notice to four tourist homes in Devikulam for demolishing its parts that encroached on the NH. These hotels swiftly removed the encroached portions. The NH authorities demolished the portion of the CPI office that encroached on the road.

VS' Munnar pointsman Suresh Kumar says 'Raveendran Pattayams' have no legal sanctity
Suresh Kumar and Rishiraj Singh

Under what circumstances did you take up the assignment as the head of the special task force? Do you have any regrets about it now?

Munnar encroachments were first exposed by the media. It was then that the government set up a special task force. It was decided by the government to appoint a special officer to coordinate with various departments to evict encroachers and dismantle illegal buildings in Munnar. But other ministers were not ready to relieve an official from their department for this mission. It was then that VS assigned me this specific task.

VS' Munnar pointsman Suresh Kumar says 'Raveendran Pattayams' have no legal sanctity
Former Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan

Did you face any kind of political pressure during Munnar Operation?

No. I worked under the Chief Minister. VS Achuthanandan. The CM might have faced pressure.

Do you think that it was a blunder on your part to take up the Munnar Mission?

Not at all, In a span of 28 days, 17,000 acres of government land were taken back and 92 unauthorised buildings were razed to the ground. Is it enough?

Are you planning to write a book on the Munnar Mission by revealing many more things? Is it true?

Yes. I am planning.

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