Kerala shuts down over Western Ghats environment order
The dawn-to-dusk state-wide shutdown Monday, called by the Left opposition to protest an order on implementation of the Kasturirangan panel report on conserving Western Ghats environment, has virtually confined people indoors.
Across the state, shops and markets were closed and barring private vehicles, no public transport vehicles were operating service, leaving many stranded at railway stations and bus stands.
"It's sad that political parties act irresponsibly. It was only last month that we read a report that the Left opposition boycotted an all-party meeting called by the Kerala government to discuss the implication of the Kasturirangan Committee report and today they are protesting against it. We doubt if shutdowns like this with regular periodicity happens anywhere in the world," said a couple who arrived at the railway station here Monday morning and were trying to reach home.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told IANS that the CPI-M sponsored shutdown is being organised with an eye to the next Lok Sabha polls.
"I have in my possession a letter written by the CPI-M state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan wherein he has complimented both the centre and state for repelling the Gadgil report and accepting the Kasturirangan report. He says this report should be implemented after discussing with all. And today they are leading a shutdown protesting against the Kasturirangan report. This is nothing but playing politics," said Chandy.
Both the state and central government have categorically assured people that not a single person would be evicted on account of implementation of the Kasturirangan Committee report on Western Ghats, but assurances seem to have fallen flat.
Hours after the Ministry of Environment and Forest came out with the order Thursday, there was a scare, especially in the hilly districts of the state, that the order will spell a death-knell for their livelihood.
The five conditions in the order, applicable in the state's 123 villages, are: no mining, no setting up of thermal plant, restricting construction of buildings to less than 20,000 square metres, no township project to exceed 50 hectares, and no setting up of industries classified in the red category.
Idukki district witnessed huge gatherings of people at various locations protesting the order. At a few places, the locals took to the streets along with domestic animals to register their protests, and at many places the Church also took the lead as numerous priests and nuns joined in the protest.
"This order should be withdrawn immediately and we are not going to go back with our protests. Our protest is not going to end with the shutdown, we are taking this forward in the coming days also," said a group of anxious locals who fear their livelihood would be affected if the order is implemented in letter and spirit.
Across the state, government and private offices saw thin attendance and at the ISRO Space Centre and at the IT hub (Technopark), the employees were escorted by armed police convoys.
Chandy added that the state government has constituted a committee that will interact with all stakeholders and once the committee comes out with their findings, the state government will again take this up with the central government.
(Posted on 18-11-2013)