Land acquisition
The people’s inquiry commission headed by Justice K Sukumaran observed that the land that had been allotted to families of Moolampilly were unsuitable for construction.
File photo

Land allotted to the evictees of Moolampilly in Kerala’s Ernakulam district were found to be uninhabitable. These observations were made by members of a people's inquiry commission headed by Justice K Sukumaran as part of a preliminary investigation.

Three-hundred-and-sixteen families were evicted from seven villages – Mulavukad, Cheranalloor, Eloor, Kadungaloor Edappally north, Edappally south and Kadamakuddy (Moolampilly) in 2008 for the establishment of the International Container Transshipment Terminal in Vallarpadom.

The people's inquiry commission members Justice PK Shamzudheen and K Aravindakshan visited the plots allotted in Thuthiyoor and Kakkanad on Sunday. They later told media that prima facie the land is unsuitable for construction.  "This land is not suitable for construction. In court order it is said that land that is to be allotted should be appropriate to live," said Justice PK Shamzudheen to Manorama News.

In 2005 residents of these villages began their protest against land acquisition for the terminal. Following their eviction in 2008, the Kerala government had promised them compensation terming it the 'Moolampilly package'. Six cents of land for each family were allotted as part of the package, while a job was also promised for one member of each family.

However, 11 years on and the land allotted to the families has been found to be marshy and not suitable for construction. Some other areas also come under the Coastal Regulation Zone, where construction is not allowed, say residents. Houses that were built in the marshy areas were damaged soon.

"Three houses were built in the beginning. All of them has got cracks in the floors and their walls are slanting," Francis Kalathunkal, General Convener of the Co-ordination Committee of Moolampilly struggle said. Though the protesters approached authorities citing that the land was unsuitable, their demands went unheard. 

Buildings were found to be slanting in Thuthiyoor, while residents complained of water and mud entering their houses during the monsoons.

According to a High Court order in 2009 the government should allot 'A' class land which is suitable to build a two-storey building to each family.

"Since government hasn't questioned the order, the High Court verdict still prevails. But the guidelines of the order haven’t been followed. The commission report is not yet complete, their observations were based on a preliminary investigation," Francis said.

Francis also alleged that nobody received the promised job as compensation. "We had sent some of them for special training for skill-based jobs after the package was announced. But none of them received a job," he said, adding that house allowance allotted for the evictees was also stopped in 2013.

"Each family has to receive Rs 5000 a month as house rent. But the allowance was stopped in January 2013 claiming that the land was allotted for house building," he alleged. Most of the evicted families live in temporary shelters and rented houses for last 11 years, says Francis.

The evictions were based on Land Acquisition Act 1894 which provided only very meagre compensation, that was much lower than the market price then. 

Read: Broken houses, lost livelihoods: How a Kerala shipping terminal wrecked many backwater lives