A DAY after the Kerala High Court ratified the state government’s anti-encroachment drive in Munnar, a hill station in the state, the IAS officer leading the eviction was shunted out on Wednesday. The officer, Sreeram Venkitaraman, was sub-collector of Devikulam revenue division in Idukki district. Justifying the transfer, Revenue Minister E Chandrasekahran claimed that “action against encroachment in Munnar will continue”.
Now posted as director of Employment Department, Venkitaraman had faced the wrath of political parties, particularly the CPI(M), in recent months after he resumed action against encroachment of government land in Munnar and surrounding areas. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had reprimanded the officer after he had pulled down a cross put up by a controversial evangelist on encroached land.
The Revenue minister is from the CPI, a constituent of the CPI(M)-led LDF government. His party’s Idukki district secretary K K Sivaraman has taken exception to the government’s decision. Calling the transfer a routine government procedure, Chandrasekharan said, “No one can remain in a particular post for long. All those who had completed four years as sub-collectors have been promoted and transferred. The opinion of the party district secretary is personal.”
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said Venkitaraman’s transfer shows the government is backing encroachers. On Tuesday, a single bench of HC had declined to interfere with Venkitaraman’s order to recover 22 cents of government land encroached by a resort in Munnar.