Tree-felling probe reaches secretariat, statements of revenue officials recorded

Union Min Prakash Javadekar seeks report on illegal axing of rosewood trees in Kerala

Kozhikode/Thiruvananthapuram: The Special Investigation Team, probing the illegal felling of protected trees across Kerala, has seized files and recorded the statements of the Revenue Department officials at the Secretariat.

The team, which began the probe into the controversial orders of the Revenue department, seized relevant files. The computer logs of the electronic files have been frozen. 

Then Minister's role suspect

Former Revenue Minister E Chandrasekharan had given instructions to issue the orders. The team is also investigating whether Chandrasekharan or the then Revenue Principal Secretary was under any external  pressure to issue them. 

Reports say the SIT now suspects a conspiracy behind the official sanction. Senior revenue officials at the Secretariat likely hinted about a deliberate move to facilitate felling of protected trees from revenue land assigned to farmers and tribals in Wayanad, Idukki and a few other districts.

The Revenue Department's e-file, U – 3/187/2019/Rev, has notings on all the proceedings. Strangely, notes were handwritten later.

The probe team has seized the note file and the correspondence file. The preliminary recording of the statements of the Secretariat officials has been completed.

Cases follow

Directives have been given to the forest department to register 586 cases and the police 10 cases. The forest department has also already registered 318 cases. The main investigation is into the conspiracy that led to the tree felling and smuggling.

As reported earlier the first order of the forest department that paved the way for timber loot was issued last March by overturning decisive recommendations. The final circular was issued by excluding two important sections contained in the draft to prevent the illegal felling of protected trees.

Several protected trees, mostly rosewood and teak, were found axed from assigned land in a few districts of Kerala. The forest department's assessment is that 2,410 teak and blackwood trees had been cut from the assigned (patta) land. Forest officials had earlier pointed out that the exact number of trees would be thrice more than this figure. Trees were also cut from forest land.

The CPI's executive committee will meet to discuss the issue on July 28.

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