Congress MLAs V.D. Satheesan and T.N. Prathapan have rubbished Government Chief Whip P.C. George’s allegation that ‘certain politicians and film personalities’ are trying to turn Nelliampathy into a forest in order to favour Tamil Nadu.

In a statement on Tuesday, the two MLAs, whose recent visit to some controversial estates in Nelliampathy along with four other United Democratic Front (UDF) legislators has kicked up a row in the ruling front, said Mr. George’s remarks were baseless and factually wrong.

They pointed out that the Parambikulam tiger reserve belonged to Kerala, and not to Tamil Nadu. The Kerala government had notified it in 2009.

The government had earmarked 274 sq km of forest for the reserve, but when the National Tiger Conservation Authority insisted that more forestland be set aside for the reserve, the government added 146 sq km from the Vazhachal, Chalakudy, and Nenmara forest divisions, thus expanding the core area.

When the authority had wanted a buffer zone for the tiger reserve, the government decided to turn 253 sq km of forestland, which included the controversial Shernelly estate, into a buffer zone.

George’s allegation

“These being the facts, Mr. George’s allegation that certain politicians and film personalities were colluding with Tamil Nadu to turn Nelliampathy into a Tamil Nadu forest smacks of arrogance that he can make any remarks against anybody,” the two MLAs said.

They pointed out that Mr. George’s contention that the Rubber Board had come to the aid of the Nelliampathy estate owners way back in 1933 was wrong.

“The Rubber Board came into being in the late 1940s following the Rubber (Production and Marketing) Act, 1947, which was passed in April 1947,” Mr. Satheesan said. “Then how can the board come to the aid of the estate owners in 1933?”

Hassan criticised

The MLAs also criticised Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson M.M. Hassan, who had resigned as convener of the UDF subcommittee on Nelliampathy, for calling the six ‘green’ MLAs as ‘greedy MLAs.’

They claimed that MLAs like them had sweated it out in their constituencies and had turned LDF constituencies into UDF strongholds by their work.

Politicians like Mr. Hassan survived by ‘issuing statement’ and not doing grassroots-level political work unlike those MLAs whom he called greedy MLAs.