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Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan (Photo/ANI)
Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan (Photo/ANI)

Union minister Muraleedharan questions Kerala govt's silence on tree felling in state

ANI | Updated: Jun 15, 2021 16:37 IST

New Delhi [India], June 15 (ANI): Union Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan on Tuesday questioned the silence of Pinarayi-Vijayan led Kerala government on the felling of trees on revenue land in Wayanad and several other districts across the state.
"We visited many districts where hundreds of trees have been cut against the rules. The state government is silent on this issue. Person(s) responsible for such acts is not limited to officers. It means that political leadership is the culprit," V Muraleedharan told ANI.
The union minister said that state government should have authorised an independent agency to investigate the matter instead of constituting a Special Investigation Team comprising of senior officials of the police, revenue and forest departments.
"Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan hasn't given a reply on who is to be held responsible. An Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) has been appointed, but can he conduct a probe on acts of omission and commission by senior IFS and IAS officers?. An independent agency that will not succumb to State pressure needs to be authorized to probe this", said Muraleedharan.
The Union Minister of State further said, "The role of revenue and forest minister has come out but the Chief Minister has not given a clear answer on who is to be held responsible. This is the biggest scam in Kerala in the last seven years."
On June 8, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) leaders staged a walkout from the Kerala Assembly, alleging that the Left government was shielding culprits in the illegal mass felling and smuggling of trees by forest mafia in the revenue land allotted to farmers for agriculture in a tribal village in Wayanad.
PT Thomas who moved the notice for the adjournment motion alleged that rosewood trees worth crores were cut down and smuggled out from Muttil area in Wayanad to Ernakulam. He said the trees were cut based under the shield of a government order, issued by the Revenue Principal secretary on October 24, 2020, which allowed farmers to fell the trees that they had planted in land assigned to them under the Kerala Land Assignment Rules, 1964.
Opposition leader VD Satheesan had also alleged that the government order issued on October 24 was withdrawn on February 2 after it became a controversy. "But by that time trees were rampantly cut down not only in Wayanad but other districts as well. The Forest Minister and Revenue Minister are completely confused regarding the issue and are trying to evade questions. A comprehensive probe should be carried out to bring out the truth," he said.
Forest Minister AK Saseendran while giving details in the Assembly on the matter had said that 101 trees were cut down and the stolen wood is worth Rs 10 crore. He said that 41 cases have been registered in the matter so far. "The government have taken steps to book the culprits and that the forest officials have recovered woods from a sawmill at Perumbavoor in Ernakulam," the Minister said.
After Speaker denied permission to move the adjournment motion, the Opposition had walked out in protest. (ANI)