As Transport Minister first and then Minister for Forests, K.B. Ganesh Kumar built a reputation as an efficient administrator and a clean Minister who largely stayed out of the political clique of the State capital.

Under his term as Minister for Transport from 2001, the ailing Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) seemed to be on the road to recovery and even looked like it would make profits. The feather on his cap as Forest Minister was the termination of the lease of about 250 acres of Shernelly estate in Nelliyampathy.

The decision, which pitted him against members of the ruling coalition, was hailed by green activists of the State as a step that encouraged conservation measures.

Despite his ‘green’ image, the former Minister made several decisions that rubbed environmentalists up the wrong way.

His comment at an Environment Day function that some environment activists preached conservation while they displayed animal skins at home provoked ire. Poet and activist Sugathakumari, who had been present at the function, remarked that she had been pained by the comment.

About six months ago, the Minister also ordered the diversion of a stream near the Brahmagiri hills in Wayanad to the Papanasini river using large pipes. The objective was to replenish the river that dries up during the summer. The river is also a key part of the pilgrimage to Thirunelli temple in the region. “The decision was made without consulting Forest officials, other departments, experts or activists. In such an ecologically sensitive area, diverting the stream could have several consequences. All of this was not considered,” said activist N. Badusha of the Wayanad Prakrithi Samrakshana Samithi. “He was doing things like a feudal lord,” he said.

Another issue that irked forest officers was an order transferring a prominent forest officer in Wayanad. “The very eminent officer was transferred only because of a petty reason – that he did not book a room in the guest house for a visiting official. Such decisions can demoralise the Forest force,” said Mr. Badusha. However, environmentalists agree that the Minister took a strong pro-conservation stand in the Nelliampathy issue despite heavy political pressure.

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