Thirteen MLAs belonging to the Left Democratic Front (LDF) representing constituencies on the Western Ghats staged a satyagraha in front of the Kerala Legislative Assembly on Tuesday urging the Central and State governments to drop the “move to implement the anti-farmer recommendations” contained in the reports on Western Ghats conservation submitted by the Madhav Gadgil committee and the K. Kasturirangan committee to the Centre.

Their demonstration was preceded by a walkout by the LDF MLAs from the Assembly in protest against the government’s disinclination to accept their demand to adjourn the other proceedings of the House to discuss the “fear spreading in the Western Ghats region of the State following the move to implement the recommendations” of the two committees. The notice for an adjournment motion, which was rejected by Speaker G. Karthikeyan, was moved by the CPI(M) member K.K. Jayachandran.

Opposing the notice, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and Forest Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan accused the Opposition of whipping up “unnecessary fears” among the people of the Western Ghats region. They said the State government had acted promptly and effectively to convince the Union government about the genuine concerns of the people. Mr. Chandy said that all previous initiatives of the Union government to introduce fresh restrictions on development activities in the Western Ghats region based on the Kasturirangan committee recommendations had been superseded by an office memorandum issued by the Centre on December 20, 2013.

Popular committees

Mr. Chandy said the State had constituted popular committees in 123 panchayats where the restrictions on development activities were proposed by the Kasturirangan committee. These committees would give to the concerned District Collectors by January 10 their reports on the ground level situation in the respective panchayats (demarcating areas of cultivation and human habitations from ecologically sensitive areas). The District Collectors would present the details to the government on January 13.

In an obvious reference to green campaigners such as Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan, the Chief Minister said the Opposition should take note of the fact that there were people on its side who favoured the strict enforcement of the recommendations of the Gandgil/Kasturirangan committee reports.

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