Kerala Kaumudi Online
Monday, 14 June 2021 8.46 AM IST

Political fight in tree felling case: Centre seeks report from concerned officials


NEW DELHI: Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday sought a report from officials concerned on the issue of alleged mass felling and smuggling of centuries-old rosewood trees from the forest land in Kerala's Wayanad district.

This was disclosed by Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan, who met Javadekar in New Delhi today seeking his intervention into the matter.

Talking to reporters in New Delhi, Muraleedharan, who is from Kerala, said the Union Environment Minister has sought a report from his officials on the basis of his complaint seeking action against the culprits, who had axed timber worth crores from the Kerala forests.

He alleged that the trees were looted from the forests under the shield of an order issued by the state government last year.

Demanding a comprehensive probe into the incident, Muraleedharan said the order was issued with the complete knowledge of the political leadership of state's ruling LDF.

"The role of the two ministers in the previous LDF government should also be investigated", he added.

The opposition Congress-led UDF had raised the issue in the Kerala Assembly on Tuesday, accusing the Left government of shielding the culprits.

The state government on Wednesday informed the Kerala High Court that a mafia was involved in felling of trees and what was revealed in the investigation was just the tip of the iceberg.

The state government said this when a plea seeking to quash FIRs registered by the Forest Department in connection with various cases of illegal harvest of trees in Muttil village came up in the court.

The High Court has refused to stay the investigation into the case.

Meanwhile, the Forest Department's investigation has revealed that teak and rosewood worth around Rs 5 crore were smuggled from three forest ranges in Thrissur. Officials have informed the government that the tree felling took place even after the Revenue Department withdrew the controversial order. Most of the timber was smuggled from the Pulakode area of ​​the Machad range in Vadakancherry. It is reported that about 500 trees were smuggled under the cover of 33 passes.

Accused Roji Augustine yesterday revealed that he had paid lakhs of rupees in bribes to senior forest officials to cut down trees, adding to the scale of the corruption allegations. An audio clip of Roji getting angry with the South Wayanad DFO on the phone for not correcting the documents despite paying money was also released.

Five squads for investigation

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The forest department has deployed five special squads in various districts to expand the probe into the state-wide tree loot. The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Vigilance) is the head of the investigation. A team will consist of two range officers led by the DFO. Thiruvananthapuram DFO is in charge of Kannur, Wayanad and Kasaragod districts. Ernakulam DFO is in charge of Kozhikode, Malappuram and Palakkad districts and Kozhikode DFO is in charge of Thrissur and Ernakulam districts. Kannur DFO will investigate cases in Idukki and Kottayam districts. The investigation in Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kollam and Thiruvananthapuram districts should be reported to the Palakkad DFO by the 22nd.

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