Tourist hotspot Kerala's Idukki is hot seat for babus

Tourist hotspot Kerala's Idukki is hot seat for babus

Idukki, a high range district in central Kerala, is a most sought after destination of domestic and foreign tourists. But for the IAS officers, it is a hot seat. Thanks to the rampant encroachments, illegal constrictions and the unholy nexus of local politicians with the mafias.

Young women sub-collector in Idukki, Renu Raj, is the latest among the civil service officers who invited the wrath of the local politicians for her bold actions initiated against land encroachers and illegal builders. Local CPM MLA S Rajendran insulted her in public, saying she lacked intelligence. The provocation was a stop memo she issued to an illegal construction.

Being an ecologically fragile area, strict restrictions are in place for constructions in the high range area. But encroachments and illegal constructions are rampant in the district, especially near Munnar, the most sought after tourist destination in the district.

Even a high profile Munnar Mission initiated by the Left Government in Kerala led by V S Achuthanandan in 2007 had to be abandoned owing to political pressure, that too from within the Left front. IAS officer K Suresh Kumar, said to be a close confidant of Achuthanandan, had openly admitted that the then chief minister was under tremendous political pressure to abandon the Munnar Mission.

The target of the Mission was to evict 4,000 encroachments spread over 50,000 acres within three months. The three-member team comprising Suresh Kumar, another IAS officer Raju Narayana Swami and IPS officer Rishi Raj Singh bulldozed about 92 unauthorised buildings, including illegal resorts and hotels, and recovered about 16,000 acres of encroached government land from powerful lobbies. But the mission had to be abandoned within a month as it knocked on the doors of some political party offices, allegedly constructed illegally. Suresh Kumar was thereafter sidelined by both CPM and Congress governments in Kerala and he finally took voluntary retirement from service.

Sriram Venkat was another IAS officer, who entered the bad books of the politicians. While serving as sub-collector at Devikulam in 2017 he took bold steps to recover many encroached lands. He even dared to pull down a cross erected on an encroached area at Pappathichola, despite undue pressure from local politicians. Attempts were even made to give a communal colour to the drive. Thereafter, Sriram's stint at Idukki did not last long as he was transferred to a low profile post.

V R Premkumar, who succeeded Sriram Venkat, too had a brief term at the high range district as he maintained a no-compromise stand against the encroachments.

Young officers hit

Another IAS officer, M G Rajamanickam, who served in Idukki, had submitted a report to the Government that three plantations in Idukki comprising about 9200 acres need to be taken over by the government as it was an encroached land. He even suggested that legislation may be introduced for the purpose. But the government has not yet taken any decision on these lines.

A senior IAS officer said that most of the officers who faced the wrath of the politicians for taking bold steps in Idukki were young officers. If the state government did not ensure protection to such officers, it would affect the morale of the budding civil servants.

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