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VS demands action against forest officials

By Our Special Correspondent

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, May 31. The Leader of the Opposition, V. S. Achuthanandan, today urged the State Government to take strong action against the forest officials who had evicted some tribal families from their huts pitched in the forests adjoining Palode, in Thiruvananthapuram district.

He made this demand after a visit to Palode to talk to the aggrieved families agitating before the forest range office there. The tribals had earlier written to him explaining their plight and saying that they had been living in the place for the last several decades.

Mathan Kani, a tribal whose family was among the evictees, told Mr. Achuthanandan that their huts were pulled down and their crop destroyed by the forest officials on May 28 saying that they were `encroachers'. They were also beaten up, Mathen Kani said.

Hundreds of rubber trees, banana crop, coconut trees, areacanut trees and tapioca plants were razed down by the marauding officials, they alleged. "The very size of the trees cut down by them would prove how long we had been staying here," one of the evictees told Mr. Achuthanandan. "I am fully convinced that these poor families had been cruelly dealt with," Mr. Achuthanandan told presspersons who accompanied him to Palode.

He said the problem simply was that there was nobody in charge of the Government here and the gangs looting the forests were finding the situation superb to spread their wings and have a merry time.

"The tribals living in the forests are an inconvenience to these gangs since their operations - hunting, timber smuggling and brewing of arrack - easily get exposed. So they have got the colluding officials to evict the forest dwellers from there," he said.

"I will like to warn the officials that they cannot get away with such outrages merely because there is no Government in the State. There are others here to whom they will be answerable," he said.

Mr. Achuthanandan asked the Government to proceed against the concerned officials under the law against such outrages on tribal people and compensate the affected families for the damages inflicted on them.

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