IDUKKI: Hundreds of local people under the leadership of Peermade MLA E S Bijimol on Wednesday held a protest at Sathram tourism destination near Vandiperiyar after the Forest Department demolished a concrete pathway. They demanded the forest officers reconstruct the pathway, which was built by the Tourism Department.
The situation was temporarily brought under control after the Deputy Director of Tourism and District Forest Officer promised to take action, but only after holding a meeting in Thiruvananthapuram, most likely in the presence of Tourism and Forest ministers.
Meanwhile, Neethu Kunjumon, 28, and Vishnu Surendran, 26, who both were engaged in construction work, sought medical assistance at the Vandiperiyar primary health centre alleging the Forest officers physically assaulted them while demolishing the concrete pathway.
According to DTPC secretary Jayan P Vijayan, the Tourism Department has been carrying out a `2.5 crore development project at Sathram.
“The place is known as the traditional forest trekking path towards Sabrimala. Besides, it’s is an emerging spot for off-road drives in jeep as well,” he said.
The Tourism Department has been carrying out work in the land handed over by the Revenue Department.
“Work on an NCC training centre in around 12 acres and 100 houses under life mission project are also in progress in the same land. But the Forest Department on Wednesday demolished the pathway leading towards the Sathram watchtower alleging it is on forest land,” said Jayan.
The workers alleged a team led by Erumely range officer demolished the pillars and the pathway.
They had also physically attacked and threatened them. The makeshift structures built by roadside vendors were also demolished.
Erumely Range Officer Jayakumar NJ told Express the place where construction work has been on is in the Forest Department’s reserve area.
“Construction in the area has been going on despite our instruction to stop it. It has been carried out violating rules. Half of the work on the path was completed earlier by the Tourism Department. And when they concreted the remaining area on Wednesday, we had no other option but demolish it,” he said.
Jayakumar said a team of 28 forest officers were called by the MLA for a talk. “However we weren’t allowed to go till evening,” he said.