Gadgil and Kasturirangan reports have initiated much needed debate on conservation

Though their recommendations may be matters of contention, both the Madhav Gadgil and the K. Kasturirangan reports have initiated lively and important debates on the need to protect the Western Ghats, participants of a discussion on the reports have said.

The discussion on the Gadgil and Kasturirangan reports on protection of the Western Ghats was organised by the Clinical Justice Education Organisation (Clijeo), the legal aid clinic of Government Law College, Kozhikode, here on Tuesday.

Opening the debate at the College auditorium, CPI leader and former Forest Minister Benoy Viswom said there was no need even to make the protection of Western Ghats a topic of debate, as it was indispensable for the existence of the people of Kerala.

Putting the importance of protecting the Western Ghats in the larger context of global warming, Mr. Viswom said it was not just for the settler farmers that the region needed protection. He also urged the farmers as well as the public not to fall for the ‘Let the market decide all’ philosophy of globalisation. Mr. Viswam, who termed the Gadgil committee report 1,000 times more democratic than the Kasturirangan report, said there were, however, slipups in the way zones were decided in the Gadgil report. He said the government should strictly distinguish between farmers and encroachers before any of the reports was implemented.

Paschimaghatta Janasamrakshana Samithi K.V. Chacko, however, was against both the reports and said they were fundamentally against the democratic principles and the Gandhian dreams of ‘Gramaswaraj’.

“Only fraudulent environmentalists with no bond with the soil can support these report,” he said. He also said the protection of environment and ecosystem was never the responsibility of farmers in the Western Ghats alone. “More harm to Mother Earth was done by the city dwellers than those who live in the villages,” he said.

An open challenge

Gadgil committee member V.S. Vijayan took on the critics of the Gadgil Report with the backing of facts derived from scientific studies and the enormous experience he himself had in the area. He challenged the audience and his critics alike to show a single sentence in the entire Gadgil Committee report that was not in the interest of the farmers.

“I will do whatever they say if they show at least one,” he said.

Dr. Vijayan asked why there was no farmer protest from the State when more than two lakh farmers committed suicide in the country owing to the policies of the Central government and why there was hardly any protest from the farmers when the State government went ahead with plans to privatise drinking water.

“All these protest against the Gadgil committee report are from vested interest groups and not from genuine farmers,” he said.

Farmers’ forum Infarm vice president Antony Kozhuvanal, Paschimaghata Samrakshana Ekopana Samithi representative A. Sreevalsan, Law College PTA representative P. Majeed, and farmers union leader I.V. Sasankan, among others, spoke. Law college principal Lovely Poulose presided over the discussion.

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