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Last Updated: May 20, 2007 - 10:48:48 AM
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Probe into official connivance in Munnar encroachments
May 16, 2007 - 3:38:45 PM
'This is our last chance to clean up the encroachers and if any of you do not do your job properly, you would be proceeded against,' Swamy told officials.

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[RxPG] Thiruvananthapuram, May 16 - Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan who authorised large-scale demolition of illegal encroachments in the popular hill station of Munnar, said an inquiry would be launched to probe the connivance of government officials with the encroachers.

'It has been decided to launch a vigilance inquiry into the manner in which government officials have worked to help the encroachers. Moreover, a crime branch probe would look into the criminal negligence that has taken place there. No one will be spared,' Achuthanandan told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting here.

He noted that more than 3,000 big and small encroachers were present in Munnar, adding that all would be evicted.

The government last week formed a three-member team to pull down all tourist resorts built on encroached government or forest land. It comprised Idukki District Collector Raju Narayana Swamy, Inspector General of Police Rishi Raj Singh and Suresh Kumar, an official in Achuthanandan's office.

'Once this operation is over we will see if the same three-member team can be deputed to other areas in the state where encroachments have taken place,' the chief minister said.

Achuthanandan got a shot in the arm Tuesday when the Kerala High Court dismissed a petition seeking a directive to stop demolition of illegal buildings that have come up in Munnar.

Achuthanandan gave the green signal for the demolition following Revenue Secretary Nivedita P. Haran's recommendation. After visiting the hill station April 28, the chief minister said the town had been destroyed by the tourist resort mafia which had encroached upon forest land.

Over a dozen resorts have been pulled down since the drive started.

Achuthanandan denied reports that he was under pressure to change the team.

'Haran has been posted as the coordinator for overseeing the operations because she had prepared the report. The team was constituted not looking into whether the cat was white or black and we felt it could catch the rats - both big and small. I have had no pressure from any quarters regarding the team,' said Achuthanandan.

Official records show that about 3,500 resorts have come up in the town in the last seven years.

The three-member team also held a meeting in Munnar Wednesday and Swamy said action would be taken against officials if they do not come out with the full list of encroachers.

'This is our last chance to clean up the encroachers and if any of you do not do your job properly, you would be proceeded against,' Swamy told officials.

Achuthanandan hopes to replicate the Munnar demolition operations in other prime tourist locations ike Kumarakom, Vagamon and Kovalam also.

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