Opposition calls for Kerala shutdown Monday

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 15 : The Left opposition has called for a Kerala shutdown Monday to protest the central government's order on the Western Ghats report, which they say is detrimental to the farmers of the state.

The statewide shutdown has been called between 6 a.m. Monday and 6 p.m.

The central government Thursday came out with an order on the G. Kasturirangan committee report on recommendations of the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel (WGEEP). Ever since the order was issued, there has been unrest at a few places, which has led to violence. Angry people clashed with the police at some places.

Responding to the violence in some parts of the state, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Friday urged protesters to desist from violence.

The union environment ministry reiterated that the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, bars mining in ecologically fragile areas, setting up of thermal plants and restricts buildings to less than 20,000 sq ft in 123 villages mentioned in the K. Kasturirangan report on the state.

In the hilly areas of Kannur and Kozhikode districts Thursday night, protesters turned their ire against government offices.

At Kozhikode, a day's shutdown was called to protest the central government's directives.

Chandy, granting that people had the right to protest, said Friday: "I assure the people of the state that not a single person will have to move out from where he or she is staying."

"I agree that the centre should have waited a little more as we have appointed a three-member committee to talk to the stakeholders," he added.

Ever since Madhav Gadgil submitted the WGEEP 2011 to the environment ministry in 2012, many organisations in the state, including the Catholic Church, were up in arms, as were people from the hilly districts of Idukki, Kozhikode, Kannur and Wayanad.

Among the key recommendations were the inclusion of the categorisation of the Western Ghats in three zones of varied ecological sensitivity, with broad guidelines for each of these zones, besides a framework for the establishment of a Western Ghats Ecological Authority, with adequate legal and administrative powers.

"Even though the Kasturirangan committee was soft on many issues, we are still not fully satisfied with it, and once the three-member committee submits its report, we will again take it up with the centre," said Chandy.

"A total of 123 villages in the state will suffer if this report is implemented. The report is just not acceptable," state Finance Minister and chairman of the Kerala Congress (Mani), K.M. Mani said.

Chandy also said that he would lead an all-party delegation to the centre to take up the issue.

--IANS (Posted on 16-11-2013)

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