Even amidst the Opposition’s outrage over the alleged land encroachment and a plethora of breach of laws surrounding the water-theme park owned by industrialist-turned-politician P. V. Anwar MLA, the natives and local leaders are all praise for the park owing to the varied ‘employment opportunities’ it made possible.
The MLA’s PVR Entertainment Natural Park started functioning at Koodaranhi panchayat in Kozhikode earlier this year. The panchayat granted licence for the water-theme park in June and licence for the garden inside the park was given in November 2016.
The Opposition parties led by Kerala Congress alleged that the land in which the park was built was encroached upon by the legislator and his people. Following this, various channels in the State had reported that nearly 10 breaches of laws were committed by Anwar in connection with the operation of the park.
The natives and the local leaders, cutting across political barriers, are lauding the MLA’s efforts to bring joy of life back into the locality where the majority of population depended on agriculture.
The locality is a hilly area where the main source of income for the natives was cultivation of ‘injipullu’ (lemon grass), coffee beans, ‘kavungu’ (arecanut tree) and coconut palm. Most of these cost huge losses to the farmers. The natives were struggling with the constant failures and it was during this period, the MLA decided to start his venture in the locality.
He possesses around 15 acres of land and built the park on it. Foreseeing the benefits the park would bring into the region, many local people started small ventures like home stays, restaurants and coffee shops in and around the theme park. The market value of land in the locality witnessed an exponential growth and public life was rejuvenated.
“Most of the families relied on agriculture and our forefathers had come here from Idukki and Pathanamthitta districts decades ago. As this is a hilly region, the main agriculture crops here were coffee and ‘kavungu’. I started with ‘injipullu’ and later shifted to coffee. Both of them did not provide me with enough results and then I chose ‘kavungu’ and later turned to coconut palms. This was also a failure. The public here were traumatised because of the continuous failures they received from the agriculture business. The park started operating during that time. Almost every family is having at least one member working in the park. My two children are working there,” said Devassya, a native.
The park functions on 11-acre land which was purchased by the MLA. Anwar is an independent MLA from Nilambur, backed by the CPI (M). The local CPI (M) leaders find the issue as politically-motivated. “The whole incident began with one fellow from Kollam filing a plea with the High Court regarding the water-theme park. Murugesh Narendran, a businessman in Kollam, had 1,500 acres of rubber plantation at Nilambur. He had some scuffle with the MLA in connection with this land. This might have urged him to file a petition with the High Court. The petitioner alleged that the land in which the park is situated was illegally possessed,” said K. S. Arun Kumar, Kakkadampoyil ward member. The park is in this ward.
“The Opposition parties found this as an opportunity to further their political interests and started accusing the panchayat officials for granting permission for the operation. The panchayat is headed by a UDF member and comprises 14 members from various parties. All of them have no difference of opinion when it comes to the working of the park. It is not because the person who owns it is influential. It is because the public here have greatly benefited out of it. The park has become a main source of income for each family around it,” he said.
The panchayat president is also of the same opinion. “The main allegation is about the Pollution Control Board’s (PCB) cancellation of certificate. But we have not been informed officially about this by the PCB authorities. We learned about it from news channels. The panchayat cannot blindly grant licence of operation for a venture without verifying each document. As far as we are concerned, all the documents have been submitted and we have thoroughly examined each of them. We could not find any discrepancy anywhere. So we granted the permission,” said Soly Joseph, Koodaranhi panchayat president.
One other allegation was about the construction of a check dam across a canal in Urangattiri panchayat in Malappuram. This was built by Anwar for irrigation purposes in association with the park. Urangattiri panchayat president Shoukathali N. K. said that no discrepancy has been noticed in connection with the construction or functioning of the dam. “Many people here are beneficiaries of the dam. Besides, the documents were properly verified. The local people receive continuous supply of water for irrigation because of this dam. The Opposition parties in the State are making use of the allegation raised by an individual or his team to satisfy their political interests,” he said.