The Kerala High Court on Friday, August 16, directed the Malappuram District Collector to demolish the check dam co-owned by Nilambur MLA PV Anwar. The court even asked why no lessons were learnt, in the wake of the ravaging floods. Kavalappara in Nilambur witnessed the most devastating landslide in the state considering the number of casualties and damage it caused. A total of 59 people were killed and 13 are still missing. There were 11 landslides in Malappuram in less than a week.
The court's direction to demolish the check dam was to ensure the free flow of the natural stream. It came on a petition filed by TV Rajan of All Kerala River Protection Council, alleging that the dam was constructed violating all norms and rules. The court turned down another petition filed by Anwar's father in-law and the check dam's owner, CK Abdul Latheef, which challenged the decision of the district administration to demolish it.
This is not the first time that the CPI(M) backed independent MLA's family has come under the court's radar. In July 2018 also, the HC had ordered the demolition of the check dam.
The dam has been built for his PVR Water Theme Park at Cheenkannipalli in Kakkadampoyil, Nilambur. The park was set up allegedly flouting norms, without having the necessary approvals and by violating the waste management guidelines. The park was also constructed without obtaining a no objection certificate (NOC) from the panchayat concerned for construction at the site.
Anwar had finally shut down the park in 2018, but the demolition of the check dam has not been completed yet.
Fast forward to 2019, and post the devastating floods and landslides that almost obliterated Nilambur and the nearby areas, Anwar, the man who should have ensured that the check dam was demolished, has been praised a lot, for just doing his job. A few even call him Nanma Maram (a tree of goodness), for merely doing his job as a legislator and for being active in the post-flood rescue and relief works. On the other hand, we have legislators like Kalpetta MLA CK Saseendran, who have been silently and effectively doing their jobs â which is their prime duty, for they are the peopleâs representatives, but whatever Anwar is doing is âdocumentedâ on social media.
The question is how can his anti-environmental activities be swept under the carpet?
The construction of the check dam, which began in 2015 by a private company co-owned by Anwar, resumed despite orders for it to be put on hold following the reports citing violations in construction. Former District Collector PV Thomas in a report had cited that Anwar had even altered the parkâs plan to carry out the construction of the check dam. In August 2017, the Pollution Control Board (PCB) withdrew the sanction it had granted to the park, as it failed to comply with the waste management guidelines stipulated by the PCB.
In the same month, former Chief Minister and the tallest leader of the CPI(M) in the state VS Achuthanandan, urged Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan to probe the allegations against Anwar as well as against another legislator and former minister Thomas Chandy, and convince people about the truth.
The landslide in Kavalappara is bigger than what happened in Amboori in Thiruvananthapuram in 2001, when 39 people had died, which was the biggest the state had witnessed at that point.
âInside the water theme park owned by Anwar, landslides occurred at six places. Even digging of rain pits is regularised in mountain sides and it is not allowed in more than a 15-degree curve. But Anwar has mined in more than 60- and 70-degree curves. A part of the check dam was demolished under the leadership of the Collector to facilitate flow of water. Anwar has also built a ropeway in the park,â Vinod Nilambur, who is a party in the case against Anwar at the HC, tells TNM.
The landslide occurred on August 8. Three days later, Minister KT Jaleel and Speaker Sree Ramakrishnan had come for a meeting at Pothukal panchayat for the post-disaster action plan in which Anwar didnât take part. Anwar, along with Pothukal panchayat President Karunakaran Pillai, started a Rebuild Nilambur initiative and began collecting funds for it.
âHow the government audits the money and how it will be held accountable remains a question. The park was shut down in 2018 after the District Collector issued stop memo but the check damâs demolition has been delayed. Now, post the landslides, there have been attempts at a cover-up and he has been portraying himself as a popular leader,â Vinod adds.
A businessman who runs PVR Developer and PVR Constructions, Anwar began his political career in the Congress. Later, he parted ways with the party and in the 2011 Kerala Assembly elections, he contested as an independent from the Eranad constituency in Malappuram. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Anwar contested from Wayanad constituency as an independent candidate. He failed in both the elections. In the 2016 Assembly elections, Anwar managed to gain the support of the CPI(M) and he contested and won as a CPI(M) backed independent. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the party again backed him as a candidate from Ponnani constituency in Malappuram, where he lost.
According to a source, the partyâs nomination of Anwar in the 2016 elections came from the party leadership, unlike the usual practice of the party district committee suggesting a candidateâs name to the state committee.
Nilambur constituency has been represented by senior and prominent leader of the Congress Aryadan Mohammed, and a victory in the Congress stronghold was significant for the Left. âAnwar also succeeded in a consolidation of votes in the Muslim dominated area. On both occasions, when he contested from Wayanad as well as from Eranad, he consolidated the CPI (M) votes as well. If Aryadan Mohammed and his son Shuakath are liberals, Anwar is a conservative and religious man who can influence a large number of people. He also has the backing of a section of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leaders. PV Abdul Wahab of the IUML is an office bearer of Anwarâs Rebuild Nilambur initiative. Interestingly, it is to be noted that the Congress has never raised any objection to the illegal constructions or any other activity done by Anwar,â the source added.