The Congress on Tuesday demanded a judicial probe into the more than Rs 500 crore alleged felling of centuries-old rosewood and other trees in Kerala’s Wayanad and other districts, while the CPI, the second biggest ally of the ruling Pinarayi Vijayan government, said that there was nothing untoward in the order that came out, but it was misused by some people and due action will be takenin the matter.
Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan said the defence put up by Vijayan that this was done using an order of the Revenue Department (October 2020) to help the farmers seeking permission to cut trees from their land is a farce as through this he is trying to defend those who indulged in illegal tree felling.
“Wish to ask Vijayan if he had seen the controversial order that was brought out by the Revenue Department after the Revenue and Forest Ministers met to discuss the matter. Did the Cabinet or the Left Democratic Front clear this and did the CPI-M and CPI leadership knew about this,” asked Satheesan.
“This is nothing but a big swindling of precious resources in the name of helping the farmers. We demand a judicial probe into this. A delegation of the opposition will visit the places where the illegal felling took place on Thursday,” added Satheesan.
Vijayan has time and again said that it was done to help the farmers but those who misused the order will face the music and a high level probe involving the crime branch, vigilance and forest department teams has already begun.
Meanwhile, more than Vijayan, the biggest flak was reserved for the CPI — especially its state secretary Kanam Rajendran — as in 2020, at the fag end of the first Vijayan government, the revenue and forest portfolios were held by senior CPI leaders.
On Tuesday, Rajendran finally broke his silence and said the decision to allow felling of trees was a long standing request from the farmers and discussions were held at various levels starting from 2016 before the order was released.
“If anyone thinks that this was an order that came out just like that, it’s not true. There were 10 all party meetings and the order was the culmination of such high-level meetings, with the sole intention of helping the farmers. The order was withdrawn (on February 2, 2021) not due to any flaw, but because it was misused. Not a single piece of the felled trees has gone out, everything is in the possession of the government,” said Rajendran.
Meanwhile, the ADGP of Kerala Police, S. Sreejith, who is heading the joint probe, told the media that the investigation has begun and anyone having any complaint or knowledge of illegal tree felling can approach the probe team.