Kerala: Protests turn violent after MoEF bans development in W-Ghats

Thiruvananthapuram: Parties and farmers outfits in Kerala, cutting across political divide, on Friday staged violent street protests opposing the Centre's decision to implement key suggestions of a committee on Western Ghats conservation, alleging it would lead to largescale displacement of settler farmers.

Protests called by agitators in affected areas, supported by opposition LDF, turned violent in parts of the state with marchers turning their ire against the Forest department offices and government vehicles.

 Kerala: Protests turn violent after MoEF bans development in W-Ghats

AFP

While sharing the larger concern over the people, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest should have consulted the state before issuing the notification on the matter.

As per the notification issued by the Environment Ministry, mining, quarrying, construction of thermal plants and big building complexes would be banned in ecologically sensitive areas, identified by the Kasturirangan Committee which was formed as a follow-up on the earlier Madhav Gadgil committee.

"The Centre should have taken the state into confidence and its inputs considered before taking the final decision", Chandy told reporters.

Referring to the protest in the high-range regions, he said a lot of "negative propaganda" had gone into fanning the agitation though there was no need for panic reaction as there was still scope for addressing the state's grievances.

Chandy said he was ready to meet the central ministers concerned to convey the state's position that the farmers should not be evicted while implementing the report.

He said the government was also ready to convene an all-party meet to discuss the issue and work out a conensus.

However, Kerala Congress (M), a key partner in ruling UDF, came out openly against the Centre's decision and said the party would join the agitation even if it was spearheaded by LDF.

"We will co-operate with the mass struggle, whoever be in the forefront of it," KC (M) supremo and state Finance Minister K M Mani said.

Cautioning the LDF against exploiting the issue for political mileage, KPCC Chief Ramesh Chennithala said the Congress was aware of the anxieties of farmers and would take up the issue with the Centre to ensure that they are not affected.

LDF Convener Vaikom Viswan came down on the Centre for "unilateraly imposing the recommendation."

The protests in northern districts turned violent with the demonstrators attacking the offices of the forest department.

Last night, a mob had held captive for several hours five central forest department personnel at Kottiyur in Kannur district and their vehicle was torched.

In Idukki, Christian priests and leaders of other communities came out to lead the agitation on the issue. The LDF has called a dawn-to-dusk hartal tomorrow.

In Kerala, 121 villages spread around 11 districts have ecologically senstive areas.

The Catholic Church have come out openly against the report, fearing its implementation would lead to displacement of thousands of families settled in high range Idukki and Wayanad and the upland areas of many other districts.

PTI

Updated Date: Nov 15, 2013 19:38:05 IST