Settler-farmers say it may have an impact on Thursday’s Lok Sabha polls

Though the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) government has succeeded, to some extent, in pacifying the settler-farmers’ agitation against the Gadgil and Kasturirangan’s report — by pressuring the Union government to issue a draft notification on the Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESAs) of the Western Ghats — the farmers are not too happy with the way the political parties, including the ruling front, handled the situation.

A large section of them still believe that the entire exercise by most of the political parties was only about doing “something to protect their vote bank” rather than doing something sincerely to “protect the livelihood” of people in the Ghats region.

The Western Ghats People Protection Committee, the forum that was in the forefront of agitations in Kozhikode district, endorses this view.

Both the UDF and the LDF were equally culpable in bringing this “serious threat” to the people of the Ghats region, K.V. Chacko, general convener of the committee, told The Hindu. Though the CPI(M) has taken a clear stand against these reports, the entire process to obtain the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site status for the Western Ghats was initiated during the Left rule, said Mr. Chacko.

The UDF government led by Ommen Chandy showed some interest, especially towards the end, but they could have handled the issue more sensitively had they really wanted to do so, he said.

The committee, which represents a large section of settler-farmers in the district, is still non-committal on which front or party they will support in the elections. “We have left it to the conscience of the voters,” said Mr. Chacko.

Meanwhile, the Jilla Malayora Karshaka Action Committee, another outfit of settler-farmers in the district, has urged voters to register their protest against the reports of the Gadgil and Kasturirangan panels by selecting the ‘None of the Above (NOTA)’ option on the voting machine during Thursday’s Lok Sabha elections. Its chairman O.D. Thomas told The Hindu that the committee had recently taken a unanimous decision to this effect. “For us, NOTA is a political tool this time to register our strong protest,” he said.

According to Mr. Thomas, both the fronts waited till the announcement of the elections to do something about the Kasturirangan report, instead of acting on time vigilantly and sincerely on behalf of the people who elected them to power. The forum is also sceptical about the results of whatever has been done by the ruling front at the last moment. “What is the guarantee of a caretaker government’s decisions and promises once the election is declared?” he asks.

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