The opposition Congress in Kerala on Tuesday demanded a High Court-monitored probe into alleged looting of forest resources in Wayanad district, saying that the government was protecting those involved. Congress leaders in a press meet held in Thiruvananthapuram, alleged that a minister had held discussions with some people who were associated with the smugglers.
"The government is protecting those who have been looting and smuggling of trees from the forest. The Forest Department is yet to take any action on the matter. We demand a High Court monitored probe," Congress MLA T Siddique said. Congress leader PT Thomas, who also attended the press meet, said rosewood trees worth crores of rupees were looted by smugglers.
"Was the minister part of any conspiracy? Why was the Forest Ministry, which was held by the CPI last term, taken over by NCP?," Thomas asked. The Congress leaders alleged that more than 20 rosewood trees were smuggled and the government was yet to take any action. They also alleged that those involved in the matter have over 40 cases registered against them.
Earlier this year in February, the Forest Department in Wayanad, had announced that it will take strict measures to stop the timber smuggling. The department had formed a six member team to investigate timber felling and smuggling in Wayanad, after 165 cubic metres of rosewood, including trees reserved for government, were felled. A Village Officer in the district was last February suspended by the Wayanad Collector related to an incident of felling trees flouting norms.
Environmental activists in Wayanad, have also multiple times called out about the widespread timber smuggling in Wayanad. Wayanad Prakrithi Samrakshana Samithi, an environmental protection group, last week sent a letter to the Revenue Minister and the Revenue Department, asking them to take disciplinary action against officials who were allegedly backing timber smugglers. â€śWayanad is already facing major environmental issues. Timber felling from restricted areas will pave way for complete environmental degradation. Take action against officers who issue no-objection certificates for this,â€ť Wayanad Prakrithi Samrakshana Samithi said in a statement.
(With PTI inputs)