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Chandy Government faces rough weather

By Girish Menon

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, SEPT. 19. The 19-day-old Oommen Chandy Ministry has run into rough weather over two major issues - the Industry Department's no-objection certificate to a joint venture in mineral sand-mining on the Aratupuzha beach in Alapuzha and the row between the Orthodox and Patriarch factions of the Malankara Church over the visit of Patriarch of Antioch, Ignathios Zakka I.

The Industry Department's NOC for the sand-mining project has exposed the differences in the Chandy Cabinet Ministers. The church row appears to be a personal challenge for the Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, considering the confrontationist positions the heads of the two Malankara Churches have taken.

The Tourism Minister, K. C. Venugopal, who had been part of the people's movement against the controversial sand-mining project, openly came out against the Industry Department's NOC, stating that the matter was not discussed by the Cabinet. The former MP, V. M. Sudheeran, who led an agitation against the sand-mining project, also made it clear that he would not hesitate to re-launch his agitation depending on the response of the Chandy Government.

Clarification

The contentious NOC, according to the Industry Department, has been issued to Kerala Rare Earths and Minerals Ltd (KREML) on the basis of a high court order on August 23. The office of the Industry Minister clarified that the NOC was only for seeking the permission of various government agencies for mineral sand-mining and not a sanction for sand-mining as such. The Government order issued in this connection (signed by an additional secretary) clearly mentioned that KREML shall not conduct any mining operations until further orders are obtained from the High Court, according to the Industry Minister's office.

No comment

The Chief Minister said he would comment only after studying the matter in detail.

The mineral sand-mining project had come in for severe criticism when it was first mooted as a joint venture under the new mineral policy approved by the Antony Government.

Alapuzha district had witnessed a massive agitation when senior leaders, including Mr. Sudheeran, lined up against it by setting aside their political differences.

The Antony Government had temporarily put off a decision on the issue.

As far as the Malankara Church row is concerned, the Orthodox faction has demanded that the Government prevent the Patriarch of Antioch, who would be State Guest, from visiting some of the disputed churches.

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