Authorities assess loss in violence in district’s hill regions last week

The district administration is examining the loss, especially the damage to public property, in the arson and rioting in the hill regions in the district last week.

A preliminary estimate revealed that the loss could be anywhere between Rs.4 crore and Rs.5 crore. “But it could be higher, depending on the destruction to both movable and immovable property,” a government functionary said.

The Public Works Department has been entrusted with preparing the loss to the departments of Forest and Wildlife, Tourism, Agriculture, and the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC). “The Divisional Forest Officer has informed that the department’s loss was Rs.2 crore,” C.A. Latha, District Collector, said.

Damage to property

Government properties at Thamarassery, Kooderanji, Kodencherry, and Peruvannamuzhi bore the brunt of the violent agitation on Friday. The Collector, who will attend a two-day meeting between Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and senior bureaucrats in Thiruvananthapuram later this week, will brief them about the developments in the rural areas.

“We had planned to introduce a toll-free number for the purpose of clearing the doubts of the aggrieved farmers relating to the K. Kasturirangan panel report on the Western Ghats. But the situation went out of control on Friday,” Ms. Latha said.

Office buildings of the Forest Department at Thamarassery and Peruvannamuzhi were set ablaze on Friday. Important files stored in the record room were gutted. Six vehicles were destroyed. A disaster management office also came under attack from miscreants.

Police vehicles and KSRTC buses were torched by the rioters. A bus owned by the Karnataka government was not spared.

The loss to the Tourism Department is incalculable. The Thusharagiri tourism centre and a herbal garden were destroyed. The tourism information centre at Kodencherry was razed to the ground. A canteen run by the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) and provisions were destroyed.

A conference hall, public toilets, cottages, and a dressing room for travellers were demolished. Trees and plants planted by the Thusharagiri Forest Conservation Committee five years ago were pulled out and destroyed. A concrete bench and iron railings for trekkers near the Thusharagiri waterfalls were flattened and the debris thrown into the river.

Police probe

Meanwhile, a special team of the police has intensified its probe into the rioting cases. As many as 25 cases were registered in the limits of the Thamarassery circle alone. Twelve persons were initially arrested on the charge of rioting and destruction to public property. Ten persons surrendered on Tuesday.

Thousands of people participated in the hartal on Friday. But it could be a group of 200 persons who actually went on the rampage from Thamarassery to Adivaram bordering the Kozhikode-Wayanad districts.

Investigators still believe that gangs hired by illegal sand-miners and quarry owners and a Muslim fundamentalist outfit masterminded the riots. The intelligence wing (Special Branch) has prepared a report on the criminal gangs that played a pivotal role on Friday afternoon, an officer said.

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