People of Kerala are totally confused about the stands of the ruling and principal opposition parties with respect to Western Ghats panel reports, ilmenite mining and appeasement of minorities, etc. One finds it difficult to conclude who stands where. But, one thing they know : The theory of vote-bank politics calls the shot.
T Satisan, Kochi
Kerala never comes across any dearth of controversies, thanks to the politicians from the tiny southern state. They are second to none in turning any issue into controversy. Latest among such controversies are Madhav Gadgil report Vs. Kasturi Rengan report, ilmenite mining, etc.
Recently CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) and Church leadership observed statewide strike against Kasturi Rengan report on the environmental aspects and action plans on Western Ghats. All of a sudden Church and LDF turned strange bedfellows! Both appeared to have buried their decades long enmity, which came up even before the liberation struggle lashed out against the first democratically elected communist government of EMS Namboothiripad in 1959. Today they are comrades-in-arms with opposition to Kasturi Rengan report being the ‘dialectical materialism’ cementing both together.
Even though CM Oommen Chandy has reiterated that the report has not been implemented now, both LDF and Church have declared a war against the report. The High Court (HC) of Kerala wondered if leaders manning the strike have ever read the reports. Anti-Kasturi campaigners have never made it clear as to which part of the Report they are opposed to. Report has clearly mentioned what it means by ‘ecologically sensitive area’. It disapproves construction with more than 20,000 sq. ft. of townships, mining, red category industries, etc. in such areas. It appears that such clause does not affect the people living there at the moment. It is an undisputed fact that Western Ghats mountains are the sources of rivers, which make Kerala water rich. If the mountains are not looked after against reckless onslaught of ‘destructive development’ programmes, Kerala will soon be a dry and thirsty state.
Church always take pro-migrants stand as far as the environment matters concerning the hilly areas of the state like, Idikki, Wynadu, etc. are concerned. But, one finds it difficult why Lefts join hands with their “class enemies” in this matter. Lefts and the Sasthra Sahithya Parishad, an ideologically pro-CPM environment movement, have been taking pro-environment stands. Why this watershed change of stand now? Answer is simple – vote bank politics. LDF has been trying to woo the Muslim society since long. During last parliamentary elections they openly worked together with PDP, the Islamic fundamentalist organisation. CPM supremo Pinarayi Vijayan had shared the dais with PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madani (now in Bengaluru jail due to alleged connections with several blast cases). They worked hard for bringing the campus of Aligarh Muslim University to Malappuram, the epic centre of Islamic politics in Kerala. The RSS baiting became the Left leaders’ daily routine; the sole aim was to grab Muslim vote-bank! But, all efforts turned futile.
It is a an open fact that the pro-environment stand of politicians and their parties does not carry any credibility. This is clear when the Union Forest & Environment ministry gave its nod for the controversial Aranmula airport. It is an undisputed fact that a tiny state like Kerala does not need another international airport on top of the similar ones existing in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Kozhikode and another one slated for Kannur. BJP and all opposition parties, environmentalists, NGOs, Hindu organisations have been opposing the idea of the new airport tooth and nail. Hundreds of acres of paddy fields are filled and canals and wet lands have become a thing of past ! Now, the mandate has been given to KGS Aranmulam International Airport Ltd., with 15 per cent stake of Reliance Group controlled by Anil Ambani, to construct a Rs 2000 crores airport project in 700 acres of land near famous Aranmula Parthasarathi temple. The proposal to reduce the height of the temple flag mast itself has provoked Hindu organisations. As soon as the news spread about the green signal released by the Union ministry, BJP state president VM Muraleedharan has declared that his party will never allow to construct the airport there. He notices the dark hands of Congress behind the approval. CPM has stated that they would continue their anti-airport stir. Popular Congress leader, known for his independent views which are quite often against the party line, has openly protested against the approval granted. Famous poet and environmentalist Padmashree laureate Prof. Sugathakumari has stated that she would fight against the airport until her last breath.
And, it is an open fact that UDF Government led by Oomen Chandy is least bothered about the environmental issues. That is why the issue of ilmenite smuggling has become hot. Opposition RSP leader NK Premachandran has sought a CBI probe into the issue. Interestingly he is not alone in this matter. The same demand has come from none other than the senior Congress leader VM Sudheeran who is known to be taking principled stands always which in most cases are not liked by his senior leader CM Oommen Chandy. Sudheeran has come out strongly against the hints of moves to start ilmenite mining on Alappuazha coasts. It is to be recalled that he rubbed shoulders with CPM leaders against the ilmenite mining while he was the MP of Alappuzha.
Now, people of Kerala are totally confused about the stands of the ruling and principal opposition parties with respect to Western Ghats panel reports, ilmenite mining and appeasement of minorities, etc. One finds it difficult to conclude who stands where. But, one thing they know : The theory of vote-bank politics calls the shot.
What the ‘Gadgil Panel Report’says
India and Western Ghats in particular has world’s best biodiversity treasure and it needs to be protected for the posterity. It is indeed a challenge to perform the balancing act between development and protecting the environment.
Keeping in mind that ecology and biodiversity develops around hydrology and the entire peninsular India depends on the water resources from Western Ghats, the policy on existing dams as well as new dams meant for water storage, irrigation and hydro power generation needs a deeper study before deciding the final recommendations.
Government of India well considered policy on Inter basin water transfer should be referred while assessing water sector policy of Western Ghats.
Energy being the backbone of modern day development, its demand is increasing throughout the country. Potential of hydro power in Western Ghats should be tapped to its full potential. This aspect also needs a further study.
Together with rich biodiversity, Western Ghats is also rich in minerals and its mining is a mainstay of economy for some states. A scientific study considering its economic implications is necessary.
Zoning grid of 9 km x 9 km used by the committee appears too large considering steep slopes of the Western Ghats and hence appears too coarse to suggest a sensitivity matrix. It is a mammoth task to declare the ecological sensitivity using a smaller/appropriate grid, nevertheless needs to be undertaken considering its long term implications.
Views of all the six states falling in Western Ghats territory have not reflected in the report, and also not the aspirations of various stakeholders.
Dr. Gadgil after listening to the stakeholder’s has formed an opinion that revisiting some of the sectorial recommendations may be necessary. He also said that his report needs to be translated in local languages of all the concerned states and serious discussions with stakeholders are essential before finalisation.
Considering the importance of infrastructural and other development in Western Ghats while protecting and preserving its biodiversity, Vijnana Bharati feels that its large scientists’ base spread all over the country should be able to provide assistance in formulating appropriate guidelines for declaring the ecological sensitivity of this area.
(Vijnana Bharati, pune
Preserve Western Ghats as reserve for medicinal plants —P Parameswaran
Shri P Parameswaran, leading thinker, ideologue and director of Bharatiya Vicharakendram has stressed the need to preserve the Western Ghats as reserve for the medicinal plants. In a statement issued on November 18, he said the raging controversy and violent protest over the Gadgil-Kasturirangan report should be taken seriously and effective remedies should be ensured.
He said it is absolutely necessary that the delicate environmental balance should not be rudely upset because that will spell disaster for the future. At the same time people who are engaged in and also those who are interested in cultivating the land in an environment friendly manner should be given opportunity to utilize areas in sufficient and viable manner.
“Kerala is the cradle of Ayurveda though it is our national system of medicine. Kerala has innovatively developed and promoted it by adding new dimension like Panchakarma. In spite of the growth of the modern medicine with all its attractive marketing system, Ayurveda still remains the favorite system for the majority of people. But Ayurveda is facing the danger of loss of credibility because all the necessary ingredients are simply not available. In this competitive era it is our duty to preserve and protect Ayurveda in its purity and efficacy. It is necessary not only for the sake of thousands of Ayurvedic physicians but also to give employment to lakhs of cultivators engaged in growing herbal plants sufficiently extensively. Western Ghats are ideally suitable for this. Cash crops like rubber are largely dependent on foreign markets and hence unpredictable. Ayurvedic herbs are totally independent of the fluctuations in foreign markets. It will be wise for us to make a virtue of the present crisis and save both nature as well as Ayurveda,” he said in the statement. —Bureau Report