Kerala govt gives nod to private airport

Kerala government will participate in the controversial Aranmula international airport project in Pathanamthitta district, by converting the government land allegedly encroached upon by the airport company into equity.

Announcing the decision here on Thursday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the land would be handed over at market price, which would be treated as 10 per cent equity in the Rs 2000 crore project.

The Chief Minister said one government representative would be on the board of directors of the company – Aranmula Aviation Ltd - formed to execute the greenfield airport project.

Promoted by Chennai-based KGS group, the company is alleged to have grabbed nearly 270 acres of government land.

The revenue department had initiated action against KGS group, which had not only encroached upon large tracts of government land but also reclaimed vast areas of paddy field, wet land and an irrigation canal for the project.

Interestingly, when the Oommen Chandy government came into power, it initiated strong action against the project, which is the country’s first private airport. It denotified 2000 acreas out of 2500 acres land acquired by the airport company. Government chief whip P C George had demanded a CBI probe into the project.

In a surprise “U-turn”, the government issued an order on January 8 this year, legalising the reclamation of paddy fields and wet land prior to January 1, 2005. Official sources said that the government had downed two birds with the order. First, the firm’s illegal reclamation has been regularised and second, the revenue department’s action against KGS group gets nullified.

In fact, it is the previous CPM-led LDF government which helped the airport firm acquire paddy fields and wet lands and reclaim them.  Then Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, on January 12, 2010, gave direction to the Pathanamthitta district collector to notify the land under the Industries Act.

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