Ministers aware of tree felling; talks held several times

Muhammed Noufal/Mathrubhumi News

Forest officials taking into custody the timber which was smuggled from Elamalakkad in Idukki

Thiruvananthapuram: The revenue department had issued orders to allow tree felling only after consultation with the ministers. The decision to grant permission to fell trees was taken after consultation with the revenue and forest department besides holding talks with expert officials several times.

After the all-party meeting held in 2018, the government took a decision to allow felling of trees from revenue land. The evidence related to this is in possession of Mathrubhumi News.

The farmers association, MLAs of hilly regions and various political parties had sought permission to fell trees growing on farmers' land. The issue had cropped up several times as submission notice in the Assembly too.

An all-party meet was convened in 2018 and Revenue minister E Chandrasekharan had said that the department had issued order allowing chopping of reserved trees, except sandalwood, by the owners in patta land. But the order was misinterpreted and misused.

But it has come to light that ministers were involved in each and every move behind the chopping of trees. The order is just not a misinterpretation alone, according to documents available.

High-level meetings were held several times namely in July 2019, August 1 and December 5. The forest department meetings were also convened after this. Discussions on this was held at party level too and the order was issued finally. The order also clearly states that anyone found misusing the order may be acted upon.

Revenue Minister K Rajan said there were no lapses from the side of the department in issuing an order allowing tree felling from revenue land as per the request of farmers. The detailed investigation ordered by the state government would bring all accused who had helped illegal tree felling to book, he said.

Meanwhile, the police have named the officials of the Crime Branch to be part of the joint investigation team announced by the state government which would probe the illegal tree felling issue.

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