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Coastal cops for Kerala

New Delhi, May 13: The Centre has approved a proposal by the Kerala government to set up a coastal police force to man the 643-km coastline in the state.

Deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani agreed to the proposal when chief minister A.K. Antony called on him yesterday.

The Centre’s assent comes in the wake of the recent communal violence in the Marad beach area that claimed over a dozen lives.

There were also reports that Tamil Tiger rebels and operatives backed by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence were increasingly using the sea route to foment trouble.

Earlier, the Central government had asked all coastal states to forward proposals for setting up a coastal police.

Kerala, with a long coastline, was the first to respond. The Centre is likely to approve similar proposals sent from the other states.

Antony, who later briefed reporters, said the coastal police will be under the state police but will receive separate and specialised training.

The chief minister also met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who agreed in principle to clear the state government’s request for distribution of non-reserved forest land among landless tribals.

The demand for clearing 12,198 hectares of forest land for distribution among landless tribals has been long pending, but the Union environment ministry had so far refused to budge.

But the Prime Minister “persuaded the environment ministry” to clear the proposal and the latter agreed in principle to “reopen the case”, Antony said.

Last year, an agitation by tribals for distribution of forest land had turned violent.

Earlier, the chief minister called on Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant.

The commission approved an outlay of Rs 4,430 crore for Kerala for the year 2003-04, up by over 29 per cent from the revised estimate of the previous fiscal, though it expressed concern over the state’s financial position.

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