A day after the Centre sought a report on the alleged mass felling and smuggling of centuries-old rosewood trees at a hamlet here, Union Minister V Muraleedharan on Friday questioned the silence of Wayanad MP, Rahul Gandhi over the issue and said no one knows whether he has abandoned the constituency. A BJP-NDA delegation, led by Muraleedharan, visited Muttil village, where crores-worth timber had allegedly been felled and smuggled from government-assigned lands earlier this year.
Accusing the Left government in the state of helping the timber mafia to axe protected trees, he said it should be suspected that whether Gandhi's silence over the issue was based on an understanding with the government. Terming the incident a "day light robbery", he alleged it was very clear that such a crime was not possible without the knowledge and support of political and administrative leadership and the involvement of ministers concerned.
"Rahul Gandhi has not uttered a word over the issue so far though he is the sitting MP from here. Nobody knows whether it is yet to be brought to his notice or he has abandoned this constituency," he told reporters here. Those who are ruling the state and the person who represents this Wayanad constituency are very vigilant on issues like environment protection and climate change mitigation, the union minister mocked.
Alleging that the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government was maybe the first to issue an order for the timber mafia's sake, he also accused them of threatening officials who had taken action against the lobby. Taking at a dig at the Marxist party leaders, Muraleedharan said those who condemned authorities for alleged neglect of the forest fire in Amazon forests, were now part of the state government which had issued orders allowing felling of treasured trees causing irreparable damage to the environment.
Several places of Wayanad and neigbouring Malappuram districts, forming part of the Western ghats, had witnessed massive natural calamities including landslides during the past three years, he said. How could anyone justify an act that would pave the way for further degradation of the environment, he said, and claimed that no one will believe that the illegal felling and smuggling of wood happened on a decision of an official or two but it came from the top political leadership.
Besides Muraleedharan, former Mizoram Governor Kummanam Rajasekharan and Janadhipathya Rashtriya Sabha leader C K Janu were also part of the delegation. The leaders also visited some adjacent tribal colonies in the high range district.
Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday had sought a report from officials concerned on the mass felling of rosewood trees. Muraleedharan had met Javadekar in New Delhi seeking his intervention in the matter.
The opposition Congress-led UDF had raised the issue in the Kerala Assembly on Tuesday, accusing the Left government of shielding the culprits. The state government has informed the Kerala High Court that a mafia was involved in felling of trees and what was revealed in the investigation was just the tip of the iceberg.
The state government said this when a plea seeking quashing of FIRs registered by the Forest Department in connection with various cases of illegal harvest of trees in Muttil village came up in the court on June 9. The High Court has refused to stay the investigation into the case.