Staff Reporter

Says UDF Government had filed an affidavit

KOTTAYAM: Kerala Congress (M) leader K.M. Mani has asked the State Government to come out in the open on its stance on the status of Cardamom Hill Reserves (CHR), and not to send contradictory signals on the issue.

Speaking to presspersons in reply to a statement made by Minister for Forests Benoy Viswom that Mr. Mani was whipping up controversy over the issue, Mr. Mani said he and his colleagues in the UDF had taken a stand in reference to the earlier statement issued by the LDF convener Vaikom Viswan.

According to Mr. Mani, the LDF convener had maintained that the front was of opinion that in the CHR area, land came under Revenue Department while the trees came under Forests Department. He also said that the LDF had not changed its stance and it was the same stand they had taken during 1958, Mr. Mani said.

``We are not confused nor are we going to confuse people. It is the LDF which is confused'', Mr. Mani said.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan should take the people into confidence and tell them what the Government stance was on the status of CHR area, he said. ``Has the Government taken the stand that the entire 2,15,720 acres, as pointed out in the case filed by environmentalist, IA 305, pending before the Supreme Court, is forest land? Or do they believe only the 15,720 acres Kanni Elam Track comes under forests?" Mr. Mani asked. Have they filed an affidavit as claimed by the LDF convener and later by the Minister for Revenue K.P. Rajendran?

"In that case what stand have they taken? If they have not, what stand will they take?" he asked. Mr. Mani said neither he nor the UDF had the inclination to launch an agitation.

If they get an assurance on the Government stance on the CHR land, they were ready to recall the agitation.

However, if the Government were bent on declaring the entire are as forest, they had no other go, but to intensify the agitation, Mr. Mani said. If the Government took the stand that the entire CHR land was forest, then Forest Conservation Act of 1980 would become applicable and the entire settler community would be affected, he said.

Reacting to a question, Mr. Mani said there was no delay on the part of the UDF Government in filing an affidavit in the case.

``The apex court directive seeking State Government's opinion was received in December 2005 and the election was declared within three months. Only the normal processing delay had occurred during the UDF tenure," he said.