Kerala CPI in spot as tree felling scam gets murkier


Thiruvananthapuram, July 5 (IANS) The CPI in Kerala- the second biggest ally in the ruling Left government, is in a spot ever since the tree felling scam to the tune of around Rs 150 crore surfaced last month. Things are getting murkier as the chances of the number two in the first Pinarayi Vijayan government — the then State Revenue Minister E. Chandrasekheran might be called in by the police probe team for questioning.

The now senior party legislator is in the dock after records surfaced that it was he who had issued orders for the felling of trees in Wayanad and other eight districts in October last year which said that no permission was required for felling of royal trees such as sandalwood, rosewood, teak wood and ebony.

And with the state under a total siege on account of the pandemic and lockdown when even movement of people from one place to another was difficult as the police were out in the streets, huge lorry loads of precious trees, some of which more than 300 years old were moving from one place to another in several parts of the state with neither the forest or other responsible officials knowing what was happening.

What has now surfaced is that Chandrasekheran, according to the records, had convened a meeting of the farmers of the Kattambuzha forest area on June 27, 2019 after they had requested permission to fell the trees that they had planted.

In the meeting convened by the minister, the forest department opposed the felling of trees and pointed out that the right was solely with the government. After the opposition of the forest department, the revenue department’s opinion was sought.

In the second meeting held on September 3, 2019, the forest department strongly opposed the move to cut the trees of the four species — Sandalwood, rosewood, teak wood and ebony. The meeting had then decided to amend Kerala government’s Land Assignment Act, 1964 and to allow the felling of trees that the farmers had planted and grown after they had received the title deeds of the land.

The minister intervened at this juncture and according to the records available, issued a special order without even consulting and getting it vetted by the law department which was the normal procedure.

Following an opposition outcry over the scam, Vijayan appointed a special police team to probe the case and as things stand, there is every chance that Chandrasekheran might be called in for questioning and if that happens, things can get even murkier as a new session of the assembly is scheduled shortly.

The question now that’s going around is — is it for this reason why Chandrasekheran was allowed to contest for the third successive time, while the party did not allow other colleagues to contest the April 6 assembly polls?


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