Kochi, Nov 16 (): Kasturirangan report on environmental protection of Western Ghats has put the northern and central Kerala on fire.
Political parties and farmers’ outfits backed by the Catholic church in Kerala, cutting across political lines, on Friday staged violent street protests opposing the Central Ministry of Environment decision to implement key suggestions of a committee on Western Ghats conservation, stopping all developmental work including banning mining, quarrying etc. The order affects 123 villages in 11 districts of Kerala.
The protests were sparked off when villagers held three central government forest officials captive in Kotiyoor. The police had to use force to release them. This in turn led to large-scale rioting in the settlement colonies across the three districts. The exhaustive report has been simplified to mean that it would lead to large-scale displacement of settler farmers.
Protests by opposition CPM led LDF, turned violent with marchers burning down police and government vehicles and attacking State property.
Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy was caught on the back foot when the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest without consulting the state issued the notification on the matter.
As per the notification issued by the Environment Ministry, quarrying mining, construction of thermal plants and big building complexes would be banned in 123 villages in ecologically sensitive areas, notified by the Kasturirangan Committee which is a diluted version of the earlier Madhav Gadgil committee.
Oommen Chandy who leads the Congress-led UDF faces open revolt by Kerala Congress, the party that is backed by the Church, plantation owners and sellers in the estates. If the Kasturirangan report is enforced then Kerala Congress would join the CPM agitation, said the party chief K M Mani.
He also said that he has decided to accept the invitation of CPM to give a lecture on economy at the plenum. This signals a show of shifting loyalty. CPM has been throwing broad hints of Mani being acceptable to them.
Chandy spoke to Jayanthy Natarajan who has said that the centre has only accepted the draft and it will not implement the report till it hears from the State.
The church and CPM want nothing short of Kasturirangan report be put in cold storage. If this is not done, then the Church top priests have said that it would not back Congress in coming Lok Sabha elections.
CPM which is relatively weak in these regions sees this as a move to gain foothold. Police say that illegal quarry mining and sand miners used their workforce to indulge in violence. On Monday there is a state-wide bandh while protests are going on in north Kerala.