The Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) has rejected the K. Kasturirangan committee’s key recommendations that directly affect farmers. It has set up a five-member panel to help formulate its policy perspectives on the implementation of the committee’s report on the protection of the Western Ghats, which has triggered violent protests in the high ranges.
At a press conference soon after a leadership meeting here on Thursday, KPCC president Ramesh Chennithala said the party rejected the recommendations that would affect traditional agriculture practices and the livelihood of the farmers of the high ranges, who had braved weather and wildlife and toiled hard to cultivate cash crops that earned precious foreign exchange.
“There is a general apprehension among the people that they might be evicted from their land. The Congress is opposed to such a situation and will strongly come out against any such move. It wants the Centre to consider exempting land under cultivation from curbs,” the KPCC chief said.
The report of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, headed by Madhav Gadgil, had caused a great deal of apprehension, leading to the setting up of the Kasturirangan committee. The KPCC felt that the Kasturirangan report had several recommendations that had to be given serious thought.
Narrating the circumstances that led to the contentious Union government order imposing curbs on five sectors, Mr. Chennithala said there was four more months for the State to formulate its stand.
The KPCC panel will have its vice-president M.M. Hassan as convener and the presidents of the District Congress Committees of Palakkad, Wayanad, Idukki and Kottayam, C.V. Balachandran, K.L. Paulose, Roy M. Paulose and Tonny Kallani respectively, as members. The committee has been asked to submit its report within a month after interacting with the people of 122 villages identified by the Kasturirangan report.
The KPCC will formulate its recommendations on the basis of its panel’s report to be submitted to the Centre.
To a question, Mr. Chennithala said the Congress was fully conscious of its responsibility in ensuring that the interests of the high range farmers are protected. Among the six States coming under the purview of the report, only Kerala had registered its strong protest, he said.
Mr. Chennithala did not find anything wrong in the Church leading an agitation since it was only reflecting the sentiments of the faithful. The Congress would hold a massive rally at Nedugandam on November 28 to explain the party’s stand.