Kerala worried opposition stir may deter investors

Wednesday, 26 March 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Kerala is worried that the gains of the January Global Investors Meet (GIM) may not materialise if the opposition keeps up its stir and bad publicity about police firing on tribespersons continues.

Kerala Fisheries and Tourism Minister K.V. Thomas said an independent inquiry had been ordered into the Muthanga incident in Wayanad district in which police fired at some tribals, reportedly killing one.

The opposition in the state had been demanding a judicial inquiry into the incident, with some rights groups saying as many as 16 tribals were killed.

"As a judicial inquiry by a retired judge may take around two years and can later come to be charged as not being impartial, the chief minister has asked the Human Rights Commission to hold its own inquiry," Thomas said.

"This has been accepted and the Central Bureau of Investigation is to probe the matter. We don't want to protect anyone and the truth should come out."

"Opposition efforts to stir up tribal and other issues and their attempts to disrupt functioning of district collectors' offices, which also house judicial courts, has led to complete disruption of work.

"A lot of government property has been damaged and some foreign media personnel were harassed. The government and the police are being blamed for all this," said Thomas.

Thomas said it could make investors once again seek options in other states.

"While 270 billion worth memorandums of understanding were signed during the GIM, even if 25 percent of them are realised it would give a big boost to industrial activity in the state and generate employment.

"Instead, all the disturbance is leading to big companies like Infosys stalling plans of setting up a base in Kerala," said the minister.

Kerala also fears that in the name of tribal welfare, Maoist extremism could resurface.

"The Maoist extremist movement seems to be making a comeback. To stop tribals from declaring reserve forests as self-governed, even local people formed a citizens forum and sought police help," said the minister.

"We are the first government to have taken action to provide land to adivasis (tribals) after having identified the landless families and those with less than one acre holding."

Under a four-phase plan 1,747 acres of land has so far been allocated to tribal families in Idukki.

The state has also been giving 75,000 each for construction of house on land allocated to tribal families. Another 35-million in assistance is being provided to tribals through the food for work programme, said the minister.
Source: IANS
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