In yet another land encroachment row in the state, it has come to light that around 10 hectares of land, which was part of the Kuttikanam Palace in Idukki district, is now owned by private individuals.
The ownership should have been with the government. According to Kerala Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan, the ownership of the palace should have been with the government since Independence. On Wednesday, he told the Assembly that the government is not aware of how a part of the land is now privately owned.
The land owned by the private individuals includes the land where the palace is situated. “The palace is spread over 73.10 hectares. As per the tax register of the village office, the total land area of the palace was 73.10 hectares, which included fallow land of 38.6 hectares and government poramboke land of 34.5 hectares. But now as per the records of the Peerumed village office, 9.17 hectares of land is under the possession of five private individuals under various thandaper,” he said.
Chandrasekharan was responding to a submission made by Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala, who raised the issue about the ownership of land. The minister also said that the Revenue Department will probe to find out how the land reached the hands of the private persons. A part of the land, which includes the palace, is now owned by five individuals - Swamy Athuradas, the Managing Trustee and mutt head of Vidhyadhiraja Brahmashram (2.73 hectares), Regal Resort Limited (6.88 hectares), P Kasim (4.5 acres), Babu Parameswaran (3.3 acres) and Luka Stephen (3.3 acres).
Built in the early 1800s, the palace was the summer house of the erstwhile Travancore Royal family.
In his submission, Ramesh Chennithala said,“The palace was built in the early 1800s. It was renovated by J D Munro. He wrote 'The High Ranges of Travancore' during his stay at the palace. Rani Sethu Lakshmi Bai, who was the Travancore Regent from 1924 to 1931 used the palace as a summer house. The palace is of historical significance. The government should try not to lose the palace.”
Chandrasekharan’s response was based on the District Collector’s report, which said that there were no documents available at the village office regarding the transfer of ownership. Professor Rony K Baby, the Kottayam General Secretary of the District Congress Committee, had also filed an RTI regarding the same with the Revenue Department.
“Even in the report of the collector, it says that there are no records at the village office on how the ownership of the land was transferred to a private individual,” he said. “Now, we have learnt that the ownership of the land is with an IT firm run by people from outside the state. After the end of the colonial rule, the government had taken up the property just like in any other case. But like several other properties in the district and considering the location of the palace which is not in the prime spot, the government never legally owned the palace,” Rony added.