Consider the following two quotes. One: “Land reforms were successful in Kerala and West Bengal because these states had governments committed to the policy of land to the tiller”, and two: “In West Bengal and Kerala, there was a radical restructuring of the agrarian structure that gave land rights to the tenants”.
The first one reads like propaganda for the communist party, while the second one implies that farmers in both states live in some sort of proletarian paradise after the ‘radical restructuring’. Both these are from NCERT books prescribed for school children. This article examines these claims in context of Kerala and analyses who actually benefited from these ‘land reforms’ in the state.
Although many steps for land reforms were taken in 1950s and 1960s, the much-touted land reforms in Kerala were under Kerala Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 1969 which came into effect on 1st January, 1970. There were mainly three State communist leaders involved with these reforms: EMS Namboodiripad, former CM who tried to bring it in 1950s, K R Gouri Amma, a minister and longtime MLA and the then Chief Minister C. Achutha Menon. Both Namboodiripad and Menon were ‘upper caste’ Hindus who had walked down the communist path while Gowri Amma was an Ezhava, wife of Communist leader T V Thomas. Such was the Hinduphobia of EMS Namboodiripad that he used to call Gandhi as a “Hindu fundamentalist”!
The betrayal of promise
They promises of Communists to the farmers of Kerala were :
- They would abolish the zamindars/middlemen
- They would eliminate the social exploitation of the famers
- To provide economic security to the farmers by providing them their own land to till
Ths was expected to bring socio-economic equality in society and to provide economic opportunities to the rural farmers. The agrarian society took these promises at face value, and ended up voting them to power multiple times.
But their ‘land reforms’ ended up doing more harm than good for the weaker and downtrodden section of our society. The party coffers, in the meanwhile, kept being filled aided by these policies.
The Land Reforms Act primarily aimed at increasing agricultural production by redistribution of surplus land to the landless. The landless were expected to work harder now they were about to get their own plot of land. This was to be done by enforcing a ceiling/upper limit on landholdings by individuals and distributing ‘surplus land’ to landless.
The process of land reforms had begun as far back as 1954. Landlords who understood what was to come, started evicting common folks who were working on their land. The scheduled castes who were the actual farmers working on leased land were worst affected. The right to use farmland in exchange for rent was abolished. At the same time, many mala fide land transfers were legalized. The Government when starting this exercise, had promised 7.82 lakh hectares of surplus land (which was available as per records) to farmers. By 1988, they had distributed only 25000 hectares which accounts for 3.2% of the promised available land.
The farmers ended up retaining just the house that they lived in and ended up losing whatever land was originally tilled by them, since the landlords would not lease out their lands for fear of losing them. Kerala, which was once agriculturally self-sufficient, now brings in farm produce from neighboring states to fulfill its own needs. This is the condition even after fifty years of land reforms.
For some reason, cash crop plantations were exempted from land reforms. The explanation given was, that plantations employ a large number of workers and thus have many more livelihoods dependent on them. For example, Kannan Devan and Harrisons Malayalam plantations hold about 49000 hectares in total and lakhs of livelihoods depend on them. It is to be noted that these are government lands, which are leased to these companies. The abysmal conditions of work in these plantations led to the Munnar Women’s Strikes of 2015, from which all Communist Unions were banned as they had done nothing to improve their condition!
The murky land deals of Kerala like Cheruvally Estate ‘sale’
Missionaries and Islamic organizations hit upon a novel idea. Funded by the zealots from Vatican and Gulf countries, they started pumping in funds for purchase of huge tracts of land in Kerala. Apart from this, government land was usurped by using ingenious tactics. Rows of crosses started appearing on govt lands and in a few years, such areas went on to become closed enclaves with a church or a mosque coming up. It is to be remembered that the funds of these organizations were legally exempt from audit, whereas Temples and their funds were audited and taxed!
The story of Christian missionary K P Yohannan illustrates how such things work. A prominent evangelist, Yohannan had founded two big organisations : ‘Gospel for Asia’ based in USA and ‘Believers Church’, based in Kerala, Bharat. He raised money from foreign countries for converting Hindus to Christianity. The amount was around US $450 million!
In 2005, Believers Church (BC) ‘purchased’ Cheruvally Estate from Harrisons Malayalam Ltd., apparently using this donation money. The 2,268-acre (9.18 km²) rubber estate must have taken substantial money to buy. Rubber, pineapple, tea and other such cash crops were grown on these leased lands. Such land once it ceases to be a plantation or the lease expires has to be returned to the government, as per law.
In May 2015, Dr. MG Rajamanickam, IAS, Ernakulam District Collector was appointed as the special officer to identify and reclaim all illegal land holdings in possession of various British companies and individuals prior to independence. He investigated the matter and ordered the confiscation of 25,000 acres of plantation land in possession of Harrisons Malayalam Ltd (HML), holding that they were leased out to the company during British rule. This included the 2268 acres sold by Harrisons to Believers Church.
In August 2017, Pinarayi Vijayan said that Cheruvally Estate is government property. He added that the Settlement register (the single most important document in the Revenue Department) reveals the estate is government land. However, the courts ruled the findings of the special officer “legally unsustainable” and a civil dispute over the ownership of the estate is currently pending before a local court at nearby Pala.
The CPM led government is looking for land to build an airport near the Sabarimala Temple with an intention of opening the temple 365 days a year, like Guruvayur or Padmanabha Swamy temples. This is against the will of the deity, the devotees and against all temple traditions being followed since ages. It must be noted that Sabarimala season begins towards mid-November and ends by mid-January. It also opens on the 1st of each Malayalam month for special poojas and a couple of other occasions for a few days only.
This is the second time in the last 2-3 years, they have tried to defile the traditions of the temple. Earlier, they tried to open the temple for females between 10 to 50 years of age through a Supreme Court order. They were assisted in this unholy enterprise by assorted Islamists and feminists. The first attempt by communists in Sabarimala was foiled by the determined will of the devotees and the case remains in review in Supreme Court.
Being atheists, the communists do not care for the sentiments of practicing Hindus. However, their servility to Muslims and Christian fundamentalists is quite well known. Cheruvally estate is located nearby Sabarimala and has been chosen for the airport project.
It is alleged that the government plans to buy the land from Believers Church at the same rate that Yohannan paid Harrisons in 2005. This would regularize the possession of land by BC and would act as an agreement regarding the ownership of the property. It would also legitimize Harrisons’ control of other plantations of the erstwhile British owners, estimated to be worth ₹ 25,000 crores.
It is rumored that 25% share in the new airport project is also being offered to BC. BC also has huge tracts of land adjoining the Cheruvally estate which it can develop into resorts. This alleged scam is expected to fill up CPM coffers before assembly elections next year.
The story in USA is also interesting. Unsuspecting Christians who donated to make Bharat a Christian country filed a ‘class action’ case against Gospel for Asia (GFA) for racketeering, fraud and financial mismanagement. GFA agreed to settle by paying back around US $37 million to two lakh people from whom they had taken donation and about $13 million in attorney fees to those who filed cases against them.
Yohannan is alleged to have enriched himself, his wife and kids and diverted donor money to buy the estate and other properties. In one single year of 2016, BC showed donation receipts of Rs.1,889/- crores. As noted above, he is suspected of getting around $450 million from foreign countries. A US court noted, “Despite GFA’s explicit representations that it would spend in the field 100 percent of every dollar donors designated for the field, GFA spent only $14.9 million of $118.6 million on actual relief efforts, instead spending far more on salaries and overhead.” The Ministry of Home Affairs under the Government of Bharat, which regulates foreign contributions under FCRA Act, prohibited BC and GFA from receiving further overseas funds.
The real loser in such shady land deals is the common farmer for whom this land was originally proposed to be used. The Hindus, as always, get a raw deal. Their lands are taken, their places of worship defiled, many of them get preyed upon by soul-vultures, and the money earned in such dubious deals fills the coffers of atheists, missionaries, church higher-ups and Islamists.
This is just one example of irregularities in land deals of Kerala. The examples are numerous and all of them detrimental to Hindu Dharma and the people of Kerala.
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