Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s resort encroached on government land, official records show

Niraamaya Retreat, owned by the BJP MP’s investment company Jupiter Capital, has encroached on government ‘poramboke’ land along the ecologically sensitive Vembanad Lake in Kottayam, Kerala

Photo by Deepak G Pawar/The India Today Group/Getty Images
Photo by Deepak G Pawar/The India Today Group/Getty Images

Ashlin Mathew

Niraamaya Retreat — a resort owned by BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s investment company Jupiter Capital — has encroached upon government ‘poramboke’ land along the ecologically sensitive Vembanad Lake in Kottayam, Kerala. Poramboke land is government land, which is regulated by the village panchayat.

In a letter that has come to light, the Kottayam additional tehsildar had written to the secretary of the Kumarakom gram panchayat, where the resort is located, to look into the charges of encroachment on directive of the Kerala High Court. However, Chandrasekhar’s company has denied charges of encroachment.

NH Photo
NH Photo
The land records detailing the encroachment

The issue had been simmering for a while. Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s Jupiter Capital had bought the land in 2013 and as soon as construction began in 2015, the local residents started to complain. Kumarakom panchayat president and CPI(M) worker AP Salimon had complained that the Niraamaya Resorts had encroached into survey number 320 in block 10 and two survey numbers in block 11. Two of the plots are adjacent to Neramada canal and one of it abuts into the Vembanad lake.

Taking heed of the complaints, a local resident’s association, Jana Sambarkka Samity, filed two writ petitions in the Kerala High Court in 2016. Their petition was against the encroachment into poromboke land along the banks of the lake by the resort, which is in violation of the Coastal Zone Regulations and Wetland Conservation Act. The claimed that the construction also encroached into the public pathway leading towards Vembanad Lake. The petitioners had also complained against the 30,000-litre sewage effluent tank being constructed on the premises of the Resort.

The HC, while disposing off the pollution petition, requested them to approach the Pollution Control Appellate Board, as they would be the competent authority to look at it. However, on the encroachment issue, the HC directed the Kottayam district collector to investigate the matter.

The Kottayam additional tehsildar PS Geetha Kumari had instructed the assistant surveyor to measure the land on the direction of the Kerala High Court. The assistant surveyor had found that the Resort management had encroached into about 2,900 sq ft (6.5 cent) government land. The additional tehsildar had then stated that there would be action against the resort for violating the law.

NH Photo
NH Photo
In this letter from the Additional Tehsildar to the secretary of the Kumarakom Gramapanchayat, the officer states that the Kottayam Taluk Surveyor had found illegal encroachments in resurvey no 302/1 of block 10; 2.17 is encroachment of the river bank, 0.44 sq mt in block no 11; 0.5 sq meter of encroachment into lake area (a total of 6.34 cents). As per rule 218of the Panchayat Raj Act 1994, lakes are under the jurisdiction and ownership of the Panchayat. So, kindly do attach the encroached area held by Niraamaya Retreats, Kumarakom

The Kumarakom Grama Panchayat Secretary had forwarded this letter to the Kumarakom Village Officer in October 2016, but the officer refused to take action for a year. This inaction led to many skirmishes on ground leading to many reports being filed. Once news of it made way into public domain, DYFI activists barged into the resort and destroyed the cottage which was constructed on the encroached land.

Immediately after the incident, the Niraamaya Retreat officials had released a press statement refuting the charges and denying that they had encroached upon government land.

Less than a month ago, Kerala transport minister Thomas Chandy was forced to resign after the Alappuzha District Collector’s probe report stated that his resort had allegedly encroached on 653 sq ft (1.5 cent) land.

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