Monday, Dec 22, 2003
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By G. Prabhakaran
The nine-member commission headed by P.A. Pauran, national council member of the PUCL, in its recent report sent to the Chief Minister and the Forest Minister said that there was "widespread tree felling in the encroached virgin forests, a core area of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.''
The report said that in the name selling the closed Arthala Estate, spread over an area of 406.98 acres, the adjacent forests were encroached upon and were cleared of trees.
The estate was attached by the Government and auctioned for realising the loans the management had taken from the Kerala State Financial Enterprises (KSFE) and various tax dues to the Government in 1990.
The Government had leased out 406.98 acres of forest land in 1900 for cultivating tea and allowed the use 834.50 acres of forest as a cover to protect the estate with enough green cover. But the estate had ceased to function in 1980.
The PUCL report said that when the estate was auctioned, its owners allegedly suppressed the original survey plan and filed a survey plan prepared by a private surveyor showing the adjacent forest areas also as part of it. Some top Revenue and Forest officials connived in this fraud, it alleged.
The report urged the Government to recover the entire estate land and the encroached forest land. An inquiry has to be ordered into the encroachment and destruction of virgin forest with the connivance of the Forest, Revenue and Registration Department officials, it said.
Mr. Pauran told The Hindu that though the PUCL had written to the Government on November 18 about the land grab and the destruction of precious forest wealth, no action had been taken so far to stop the encroachment of virgin forest and book the culprits involved in this land grab.
He said that the District Collector had ordered an inquiry into to it by the Revenue Divisional Officer, Perinthalmanna, but the PUCL had reservations on the antecedents and track record of the officer.
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