Vijayan in dilemma over Mullaperiyar dam tree felling episode


Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 10 : Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan continued his silence over the fiasco arising after state Forest Minister A.K. Saseendran's freezing of the Forest Department's nod to Tamil Nadu to fell trees to strengthen the baby dam near the ageing Mullaperiyar dam on the grounds that the government had no information was allegedly disproved. Senior Congress legislator K. Babu told the media that Vijayan is acting like a "mouni baba (silent hermit)". "The media has now come out with records stating that all this happened with the knowledge of authorities. But Vijayan remains silent and has not uttered a word on it. His silence means that there is something wrong somewhere. We are all waiting to hear him speak on this issue," Babu told the media. The Congress-led Opposition has demanded a judicial probe into the Forest Department's order. The order, which was dated November 5, surfaced on November 6 and reportedly the government noticed it on Sunday. Saseendran has gone on record stating that that the political leadership and the state government had no role in the decision and they came to know of the order only after it came out and since they had no clue about it, the order has been frozen. But on Tuesday, media reported that the government was aware as as a joint examination was conducted in the area by officials from both states on June 11 and there were quite a few meetings held when top Kerala officials took part and it was after that the November 5 order came out. Incidentally, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) Bennychen P. Thomas had issued the order last week and there were speculation that Vijayan, in order to keep clean, is all set to suspend Thomas, but with more evidence surfacing that it was known to all, then other top officials would need to face the same action and this has left Vijayan in a spot of bother. Meanwhile the Vijayan government is now sought legal help on how to come clean on the order and the subsequent freezing of it. This is happening at a time when the apex court is already hearing a petition and on October 25, it had asked the Kerala government to refrain from debating the issue regarding suitable height of the water level in the Mullaperiyar dam before it, and rather engage with Tamil Nadu government and the committee. The top court also pointed out that it is the task of the expert supervisory committee, appointed by it, to take a decision in the matter, and asked the committee to take a call expeditiously after discussing with all parties concerned. The committee had suggested that no change in water level was required, which has been contested by the Kerala government. And all eyes are on the apex court and on what the impact of the now controversial Kerala government's frozen order is going to be. /IANS


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