Kerala Kaumudi Online
Saturday, 18 May 2024 5.56 PM IST

Sugandhagiri tree felling case: Allegations of corruption and political interference rock investigation


Even though the name Sugandha is associated with it, the investigation into the Sugandhagiri tree cutting case in Wayanad and the subsequent actions against forest department officials, have stirred up allegations not only of corruption but also of abuse of power, illegal interference and retaliatory actions. The latest development in the case involves the suspension of three officials, including South Wayanad DFO Shajna Karim, which was recommended by the forest department's vigilance department. However, the forest minister swiftly intervened and halted the suspension within hours. While the vigilance report highlighted the officials' shortcomings, the decision to freeze the action has fueled rumours suggesting ulterior motives behind the vigilance findings, particularly targeting those who took a firm stance in the Muttil tree cutting case.

In the Sugandhagiri tree cutting incident, where 126 trees were felled under the pretext of a permit issued to cut only 20 trees posing a threat to Sudhangiri tribal colony homes, it was discovered that adequate measures were not taken at the official level leading to the smuggling of the felled trees. A report implicated 18 individuals, including the DFO and range officers, resulting in the suspension of Kalpatta Range Officer K. Neethu. However, the suspension of three others, including the DFO, was promptly halted due to political interference.

The standard protocol and basic courtesy dictate seeking explanations from officials before initiating departmental disciplinary actions for lapses. Allegations suggest this procedure was not followed in the Sudhangiri case, prompting objections from the Forest Protective Staff Association. Despite media reports citing the forest minister's decision to freeze the action order on grounds of procedural irregularities, speculation suggests that severe dissatisfaction within the forest minister's party and the left front, coupled with external pressures, influenced the decision.

The concern of the common people lies not in political pressures or bureaucratic maneuvering but in ensuring impartial investigations and strict actions against those involved in exploiting the state's precious forest resources through illegal logging. Whether official assistance was sought to transport the felled trees is as grave a matter as the illegal felling itself and warrants thorough examination to preempt objections. Investigations into criminal activities and malfeasance must be equally meticulous leaving no room for loopholes.

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