Buffer zone protest brewing in high ranges; Church, UDF to take on govt

Farmers’ organisations allege lack of clarity in the satellite survey, plan mass agitation
Image used for representational purpose .
Image used for representational purpose .

KOCHI/T’PURAM : The brewing unrest over the satellite survey of the buffer zone enveloping Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZs) is all set to transform into a political fight. Nine years after the protest over the Gadgil Committee Report on Western Ghats churned a major political storm, the high-ranges are set to witness another Church-led agitation of religious groups and farmers’ organisations against the LDF government.

Sensing a political opportunity, the UDF is trying to recapture the vote bank that it lost a decade ago to the LDF, by taking up the issue with mass protests.

Under pressure from Church groups, the state government on Saturday brought out an order to pacify the residents who have been protesting against the lack of clarity over the satellite survey on the buffer zone. There are indications that the buffer zone issue could emerge as another headache for the state government, after Vizhinjam.

Besides the Opposition UDF and BJP, outfits such as Kerala Independent Farmers Association (KIFA), Infam and regional farmers’ collectives — with the backing of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) — have also announced their protest plans.

Thamarassery Bishop Mar Remigiose Inchananiyil will take part in a protest by local farmers’ organisations in Thamarassery on Sunday. The KCBC has also demanded immediate measures to address people’s concerns. Alleging lack of clarity in the survey report, the farmers’ bodies and residents near forest land have demanded revising the draft after proper field visits.

UDF move puts Left front ally KC(M) on the defensive

“The boundaries of wildlife sanctuaries which border human settlements should be fixed at least one kilometre away from protected forest areas. The government should convince the Central Wildlife Board and Supreme Court in this regard,” said KCBC president Cardinal Baselios Cleemis.
KIFA chairman Alex Ozhukayil said: “The time period for the public to raise their complaints is until December 23 and this should be extended up to January 30. The government should initiate a study on the issue.”

With the CPM and the Kerala Congress (M) in the spectator’s role, the declaration of mass protest by the Congress is aimed at redrawing the political boundary in the central Kerala and high-ranges.
The Congress has decided to organise its protest declaration convention at Koorachundu in Kozhikode.
Kozhikode DCC president Praveen said senior leader Ramesh Chennithala will inaugurate the convention on December 20.

“All democratic secular organisations can attend the convention,” he said, indicating that the party was not against a fight along with the bishops’ council. “The Congress wants the government to take the farmers into confidence,” Ramesh Chennithala told TNIE. “The Tamil Nadu government has implemented a zero buffer zone in populated areas. Kerala government’s actions affect people’s livelihood,” he said.

Kerala Congress (Joseph) chairman P J Joseph has asked the Congress leadership to convene a UDF meet soon.He has already conveyed the same to Opposition leader V D Satheesan. “The government should have handled the issue with caution. But it failed miserably,” said KC (Joseph) MLA Mons Joseph.

The UDF move has put Left ally KC(M) on the defensive. The KC(M) has now asked the government to extend the deadline given to the people to submit complaints on buffer zone satellite survey. Party chairman Jose K Mani had written to the CM in this regard on Tuesday.

“The government should take necessary steps to protect farmers’ interests. It has accepted our demand to rectify mistakes in the satellite survey,” Jose told TNIE. In 2011-12 when the Madhav Gadgil Committee Report came out it was CPM which had spearheaded violent protests across the high ranges along with the Catholic Church. This eventually helped the LDF in the next parliament and assembly elections. Now, the same Church denominations are up in arms against the Left government.

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