A high-level coordination committee of the Congress party on Wednesday asked the Oommen Chandy government in Kerala to amend existing laws and bring in suitable fresh laws to protect the agricultural lands fast vanishing to construction mafia in the state.
The committee consists of Chief Minister Chandy, state party chief Ramesh Chennithala, three former state party chiefs, the ruling front convenor and two Congress state ministers besides senior party leader VM Sudheeran.
"By now, a precious nine lakh hectares of land for agricultural purposes have been either filled or reclaimed and all that remains are a mere two lakh hectares," said Mr Chennithala, referring to the paddy fields having been earth-filled and diverted from agriculture to construction purposes.
"The law that was passed in 2008 by the previous Left government has a lot of loopholes and people continue to fill such land and it is being sold at fancy prices," Mr Chennithala added.
He also pointed out that the Kerala High Court through a verdict last year had asked the government to regularise all agricultural land that was filled or reclaimed before the previous Left government passed the law.
"We have asked the government to see if there is any scope for an appeal against that verdict besides passing an ordinance similar to the one in Karnataka where any agricultural land purchased could be used only for cultivation purpose. The third thing that we have asked is to see to it that a Comprehensive Land Policy is framed which will address all such issues," added Mr Chennithala.
In the past few weeks, leaders like Mr Sudheeran have been up in arms against the indiscriminate filling of agricultural land by the real estate mafia, while the government is maintaining a stoic silence.