Kerala Oppn brings out Rs 10 cr rosewood trees felling scam

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Thiruvananthapuram, June 8 (IANS) The Congress led UDF opposition in the Kerala Assembly on Tuesday brought to light a case where rosewood trees worth Rs 10 crore were cut down in the interior areas of Wayanad and wanted to know from Forest Minister A.K. Saseendran if this was done by people belonging to his party. Saseendran was quick in denial and said that he became a Minister just a few weeks ago only.
The issue was brought out by senior Congress legislator P.T. Thomas who pointed out that this was made possible by a suspicious order from the revenue department which came out last October and which allowed the felling of trees, except sandalwood trees, in certain areas.
“The partners in this crime are a few persons who were arrested hours before Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was getting ready to launch a new mobile phone manufacturing company a few years back. We want to ask the Minister if these people had come and met him and there are reports that some of them have even joined the Minister’s party. We also want to know if the middleman in this case was a media person with a leading media house,” asked Thomas.
“The wood cutter Hamza who had felled the trees, has spoken about the high connections the people who took away the trees have, and the poor hapless tribals in the area were cheated,” added Thomas and pointed out that the collective responsibility of the cabinet seems to have disappeared.
Replying to the allegations, Saseendran, a top leader of the NCP, said he became a Minister just a few weeks back.
“I assure the House all those trees are now in the custody of the government and those responsible for this will be taken to task,” said Saseendran.
Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan said it is now clear that such a massive corrupt deal could not be possible without the knowledge of those in power. Protesting the Speaker’s decision not to take up this issue for discussion, the opposition walked out of the House.
With the issue figuring in the assembly, the police became active and visited the areas where the rosewood trees were cut.
The government is now awaiting the full report from the top forest officials on the whole issue.

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