House to discuss issue today, says Karthikeyan

The Assembly witnessed noisy scenes on Wednesday after the Opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) members, incensed over the government’s refusal to discuss the K. Kasturirangan committee report on the conservation of the Western Ghats, disrupted proceedings, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House for almost an hour.

The Opposition demanded a debate on the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests’ (MoEF) assertion before the National Green Tribunal on Tuesday that the Centre had not withdrawn approval for the Kasturirangan panel report or subsequent orders implementing it.

Contrary stance

Moving an adjournment motion, Kodiyeri Balakrishnan of the CPI(M) said the MoEF stance was contrary to Union Minister Veerappa Moily’s statement that the recommendations of the Kasturirangan committee on regulating industrial and mining activities in the Western Ghats would be implemented only after consultations with the Chief Ministers of the six States.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told the House that the State government would prevail upon the Centre to make necessary amendments to the Kasturirangan panel’s report to protect the interests of farmers and people in the high ranges. Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan alleged that the Centre and the State were trying to hoodwink the people and impose the Kasturirangan committee report on Kerala.

After the Speaker denied leave for adjournment to discuss the issue, the Opposition members shouted slogans and moved to the well of the House.

As many as five MLAs, representing high range constituencies led by E.S. Bijimol, went up to the Speaker’s podium demanding a discussion. With the Opposition showing no signs of relenting, the Speaker adjourned the House.

Debate today

Emerging from discussions he had with Mr. Chandy and Mr. Achuthanandan, Speaker G. Karthikeyan informed the Assembly that an agreement had been reached to take up the issue for discussion on Thursday.

Earlier, moving the motion, Mr. Balakrishnan alleged that the farmers in the 123 villages earmarked as Ecologically Sensitive Areas by the Kasturirangan panel were facing the threat of an undeclared eviction by the government. He said the residents in these villages were not allowed to remit tax or register land transactions.

“The government issued an order directing officials to ensure these services, only to withdraw it a day later,” he said.

Mr. Balakrishnan said the Kerala government was caught napping while other States had managed to get high range areas exempted from the ESA. “So, while Kodagu was excluded, Wayanad finds itself on the list,” he added.

He dared Mr. Chandy to present a resolution in the House against the Kasturirangan committee report. Replying to the notice, the Chief Minister maintained that there was no cause for concern. “There is no change in the ground situation. The office memorandum issued by the MoEF on December 20 that a final decision on the Kasturirangan report would be taken only after consultation with States is still valid, he said.

Mr. Chandy said the report of the Oommen V. Oommen committee would be submitted to the Centre by the end of the month. He reiterated that the State would succeed in its efforts to protect the interests of farmers in the State.

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