Staff Reporter

Cheque of Rs. 9.56 lakh handed over to tribal panel

KOCHI: Forest Minister Benoy Viswom has said that access to basic amenities like drinking water, road, and electricity was the right of the tribals and not something to be bestowed out of generosity.

Handing over the income from the export of bio-pepper to a tribal representative here on Saturday, Mr. Viswom said that it was the State government's policy to do provide all possible facilities for the benefit of tribal communities.

A cheque for Rs. 9.56 lakh received on account of export of bio-pepper to Germany was handed over to V. Satheesh, president of Vanchivayal Eco-Development Committee.

Mr. Viswom directed K.K. Srivastava, the State Principal Chief Conservator of Forests & Chief Wildlife Warden, who was also present on the occasion, to take all necessary steps for making available basic amenities to the tribals under the Forest Act and to submit a report on the action taken within the next two months.

The Chief Wildlife Warden was to act on this by giving out necessary instructions to forest officials under him.

The Minister said that under a legislation recently passed by the Union government the Divisional Forest Officers had been given the powers to handover land up to the extent of one hectare for providing these amenities to the tribals.

He urged the officials to use those powers while reminding them that unnecessary delay in executing the government policy for the welfare of tribals would not be allowed.

Stating that many hurdles had to be cleared before the tribal produce could be exported to the Germany-based Ecoland Herbs and Spices, Mr. Viswom alleged that there were deliberate efforts to sabotage the initiative from certain quarters.

The recovery of a pesticide bottle from the first consignment was part of such efforts, he said.

Last year, the Periyar Foundation had procured 13,006.670 kg of bio-pepper on behalf of the forest department and had paid a 33 per cent higher price.

The cheque handed over at the function was the payment received from the German firm for the second consignment of exports of bio-pepper.