Kerala’s scenic Munnar for decades has been expolited by the land mafia. The mafia has had the backing of influential politicians & industrialists, crushing through forests & valleys to build resorts, hotels & shopping malls. The mafia which had the support of local leaders, felled down trees to make way for superstructures. The courts termed this act of cutting down trees as ‘The Rape of Mother Nature.’
The Land Mafia for years did not face any major problems. But, now a 30 year old IAS officer is taking on the Mafia. Sriram Venkatraman is a young & dynamic IAS officer who has taken up the task of battling the illegal encrochers in the hill station of Munnar. He stood second in the 2013 civil services examination & is currently the sub-collector of Devikulam near Munnar in Idukki district of the state.
Venkatraman is now a hero amongst locals & activists, who for long have stood against the encroachment of forest lands. Local politicians have been supporting businessman indirectly to grab large areas & build resorts and hotels. Venkatraman is making an effort to evict resort owners who do not have the correct land records.
The eviction drive gained momentum after an Iron cross was pulled down on April 17. The land had been encroached for the erection of the iron cross in Pappatichola by a Christian evangelical group. The pulling down of the iron cross drew fury from Kerala’s power minister MM Mani. Mani is an MLA from nearby Udumbanchola. Mani, who has always been in the news for making derogatory comments at public forums, accused Venkatraman of conspiring with the RSS in bringing down the cross. The CPM leader compared the act to the Babri Masjid demolition & went on to add that Venkatraman must be admitted to a mental asylum.
Mani’s harsh comments have not gone down well with CPM’s ally CPI. The BJP has demanded the immediate ouster of the minister from the cabinet. The IAS officer has also received the support of former CM VS Achuthanandan. The ex CM is also a member of the CPM, but has been at loggerheads with present CM Pinarayi Vijayan over the innumerable failures of the government.
Venkatraman had earlier told Hindustan Times: “I am not scared of anyone. I am only implementing the law of the land.” His security has been beefed up owing to constant threats from the land mafia.