ISRO land deal: Kerala Oppn on indefinite fast

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Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 17 (UNI) The Opposition Congress-led United Democratic Front today began an indefinite fast on the foyer of the Kerala Assembly, demanding a comprehensive inquiry into the ISRO land deals at Ponmudi here.

Five MLAs began the fast after Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan, in reply to Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy's submission, said it was the 2003 Amendment Act brought in by the previous United Democratic Front Government which enabled Merchiston Estate owner Xavie Mano Mathew to get possession of the Ecologically Fragile Land (EFL) at Ponmudi, which he later sold to ISRO.

Alleging that the Government was trying to protect a ''corrupt'' Minister, Mr Chandy said the rules of the 2003 Act were framed only this year, which had helped Mathew with the land transaction.

Challenging the Government for an inquiry into the whole issue, he said the probe could also cover the lapses during the previous Government's tenure.

He told the Assembly that no Government land had been lost with the 2003 Act. ''Mr Achutanandan had stated in the Assembly that the Government had lost about 10,000 acres of land. But how is that possible when the rules had not been framed,'' he asked, adding that the previous UDF Government had brought in the legislation in 2003 for the benefit of farmers being threatened by forest officials.

Mr Achutanandan said the President had approved the Act in 2005 and the rules were framed only last year after his Government came to power. ''After the President gave his approval, the previous Government had not framed the rules and this one-year gap had helped people like Mathew to get possession of Ecologically Fragile Lands,'' he said.

Announcing the indefinite fast by the five MLAs, Mr Chandy led the entire Opposition out of the House.

Messrs Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan (Cong), Joseph M Puthussery (KC-M), U C Raman (IUML), K B Ganesh Kumar (KC-B) and K K Shaju (JSS) were the members observing fast.

UNI

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