LDF, UDF, and NDA have promised to give land if they form the government.
Palakkad: Tea plantation workers employed at Nelliyampathi, a panchayat at Nenmara Assembly constituency in Palakkad district, are yet to receive the land patta from the government even after staying for over 70 years. Meanwhile, the sitting MLA from CPM from Nenmara K. Babu told The Sunday Guardian that the Indian Forest Act, 1927, is preventing the state government from distributing land to the tea plantation workers in the panchayat.
Usually dotted with tourists, before the elections, the tea plantation workers protested for 140 days outside the panchayat office, demanding land patta to tea plantation workers who are staying in Nelliyampathi for three generations. During the protest, the workers said they would vote for the candidate who promises to provide land in Nelliyampathi.
K.J. Francis (60), a tea plantation worker at a private tea plantation whose family has been staying in Nelliyampathi for three generations, told The Sunday Guardian, “My grandparents came here to work in the plantations. All my family members worked at the private plantation in Nelliyampathi. I worked for nearly 40 years in the tea plantation field. Now, when I retired from here, I was asked to vacate the place.”
He further said, “People who have worked in the plantation field are supposed to move out of Nelliyampathi, and using the accumulated PF and gratuity, they would purchase land and build a house in Nenmara. This has been the trend in Nelliyampathi.”
Francis is a former vice president of Nelliyampathi gram panchayat.
K.M. Kabeer, who worked in a private tea plantation field for 10 years, told The Sunday Guardian, “As many as 20 years ago, around 30,000 people used to stay here. Now, there are only 3,500 people. I have been staying here because my son is working at one of the tea plantations in Nelliyampathi. We don’t have our own land anywhere in this panchayat.”
M.M. Kabeer, president of Bharatiya Janata Dal National, told The Sunday Guardian, “There are 1,000 acres of land under the Kerala Agriculture Department. The government should give 2,500 square feet of land to each tea plantation worker. Most of the workers have been born and brought up in Nelliyampathi. It will be difficult for them to settle in Nenmara.”
The demand has caused a huge headache for the LDF government. K. Babu, who is a sitting MLA and contesting on CPM’s ticket, told The Sunday Guardian, “The land in Nelliyampathi is under the forest department. They have leased the land to the private plantation company for 99 years. Now once the lease is over, only then will we be able to do something on this. We are finding some loophole in the Indian Forest Act in order to give land to the needy.”
However, all the three fronts—LDF, UDF, and NDA—have promised to give land to the plantation workers if they win the polls.