Row over CM’s remarks on sops for plantations

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Chief minister told the assembly on Thursday that the government had exempted from the ambit of Forest (Vesting and Management of Ecologically Fragile Land) Act, triggering a controversy.
The act is aimed at maintaining ecological balance and conserving bio-diversity. The chief minister made the statement while detailing steps taken to help the plantation sector.

The office of the chief minister later came up with a clarification that the statement on exemption for plantations was being misinterpreted. As per Section 2(c) of the act, tea, coffee, rubber, pepper, , coconut, arecanut and cashew plantations have been exempted and the government had done nothing new, it said.

However, sources said the EFL exemption was applicable only for cultivations in plantations and the act would be applicable for areas not under cultivation in plantations. The statement invokes suspicion and it can lead to interpretations that the whole area under plantations is exempted. This would also question the very need of the EFL act, they added.

Congress leader V M Sudheeran said the government move was a blatant violation of existing laws to favour land grabbers. Former chief minister V S Achuthanandan also said any move that could harm the environment should be opposed.

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