The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) on Friday boycotted the question hour after Forest Minister AK Saseendran said the government is not considering a judicial probe into tree felling at Muttil in Wayanad.
Saseendran made the statement after repeated questions from the opposition in the Kerala Assembly
Leader of the Opposition VD Satheesan alleged that the government is trying to make poor farmers and tribals scapegoats, while trees were being felled by the powerful forest mafia.
"Such rampant tree felling has not taken place in the recent history of Kerala. The government is not ready for a judicial probe because they are not taking the matter seriously. The opposition is walking out in protest against this," said Satheesan in assembly before the walkout.
Forest Minister told the house that a comprehensive probe is being undertaken by Special Investigation Team.
"The team has officials from the Forest, Home and Vigilance departments. Regarding the smuggling of the wood, it had been found out that lapses have occurred with those on duty in the Forest Check post. Two persons have been suspended, pending enquiry," he said.
IUML MLA PK Kunhalikutty alleged that poor farmers and tribals were being cheated by those who were behind illegal tree felling.
"When trees worth Rs 5 lakh are cut down and smuggled, the owners of land, mostly poor farmers and tribals, were given Rs 5,000. Rampant tree felling has taken place using the order passed by the government," he said.
Pressing for a judicial probe, Congress MLA Ramesh Chennithala said that the real culprits behind the wood smuggling are roaming scot-free and demanded that their arrest.
The Forest Minister, however, ruled out a judicial probe and asserted that there is no difference of opinion between the Revenue and Forest departments regarding tree felling.
The matter pertains to a controversial order issued by the Revenue Department during the previous LDF tenure, that involved tree felling including rosewood trees at Muttil in Wayanad. The order was later withdrawn. (ANI)