Kerala Ex-minister ordered felling of trees, records reveal

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Thiruvananthapuram, July 4 (IANS) Senior leader of the CPI and former revenue minister in the first Pinarayi Vijayan-led state government E. Chandrashekharan had issued orders for the felling of trees in Wayanad and other parts, records have revealed.

According to records available, the former minister had issued a note on October 5, 2020, for the order that led to a major controversy in Kerala over the felling of trees which are considered protected according to the Forest Act.

The law prohibits the felling of royal trees such as sandalwood, rosewood, teak wood, and ebony. The minister in his note and subsequent order issued had stated that no permission was required to fell these trees and to cut them.

The minister, 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 on the views of the revenue department.

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’ and according to the opposition had pressured the revenue secretary to issue the order without even consulting and getting it vetted by the law department which was the normal procedure.

The state government is now facing this major controversy of felling the royal trees, including rosewood and ebony from the revenue land and even from the forest land, and trees worth more than Rs 150 crores were felled based on this order.

Former Minister, E. Chandrashekharan was not available for comments even after repeated queries.

BJP National executive member and former state president, P.K. Krishnadas while speaking to IANS said, “The BJP has taken up this issue and had conducted several agitations and protest marches ever since the issue cropped up. The then minister had issued an order without complying with the law of the land that such royal trees cannot be felled. A thorough investigation will reveal what had transpired and whether money changed hands. The CPI leadership has to come out clean on this issue if they have not done anything wrong.”

The government is now in a corner over the felling of trees and the haste with which such an order was issued at the instance of the then revenue minister.

–IANS
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