Cannot allow encroachments on pretext of tourism: Alphons
Kochi: The Centre on Sunday talked tough on alleged land encroachments in the name of tourism in Kerala, saying they could not be allowed.
"Encroachments of land in the name of tourism cannot be allowed," Union Minister of State for Tourism Alphons Kannanthanam told reporters at nearby Muvattupuzha.
He added that it was the state's responsibility to make arrangements to accommodate the large number of tourists thronging places like the scenic hill station of Munnar.
"Removing encroachments from a place like Munnar is the duty of the state government. But, one thing is for sure...encroachments of land in the name of tourism cannot be allowed," Kannanthanam said.
He urged the Kerala government to identify land at places of tourist attraction like Munnar to help private players who are interested in developing tourism infrastructure.
The Union minister's statement assumes significance in the wake of the Kerala BJP's charges that land encroachments in Munnar were done with the support of local MLAs, MPs and politicians from both the ruling CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and opposition United Democratic Front (UDF), headed by the Congress.
A BJP delegation, led by the party's Kerala unit chief, Kummanam Rajasekharan, had earlier informed Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh that the hill station "may witness an Uttarakhand-like disaster" if encroachments and illegal constructions on its fragile land were not stopped.
Earlier, Kannanthanam told reporters at the Cochin International Airport, where he was accorded a warm welcome by the state BJP leaders, that the Narendra Modi government at the Centre had vowed to work with all the state governments, including the LDF regime in Kerala, to do "big things" for the states and the country.
To a query on his statement on beef, the minister said he had already made his stand clear on the issue.
"In a democracy, people have the right to make their choices," Kannanthanam said.
On his first day in office on September 4, the minister had touched upon the contentious issue of beef, saying it would continue to be consumed in Kerala. He claimed that the BJP had never said beef could not be eaten. Kannanthanam, on his first visit to Kerala after becoming a Union minister, said the Modi government wanted to forge a good relation with all the states and added that he would work with all the state governments to fulfil the prime minister's dream of leading them on to the path of development.
"The Modi government wants good relations with all the states. Uplift of the poor is the prime minister's dream. All the states should join hands with the Centre to fulfil his dream," he said. Recalling his "personal relations" with Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Kannanthanam hoped that it would help him deliver good things for the state.
Flanked by Rajasekharan, former Kerala BJP chief V Muraleedharan and former Union minister P C Thomas, he said, "All of us are ready to work together and do big things for the development of the country and the states."
Rajasekharan dismissed reports that Kerala BJP leaders were upset with the party's decision to offer a ministerial berth to Kannanthanam as "baseless" and said the leaders and workers of the party had, instead, welcomed the move.