THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The expert committee appointed by the state government to probe the death of wild jumbo Thanneerkomban has come under a cloud.
The Kerala Independent Farmers Association (KIFA) has sought a probe into the alleged nexus between Chief Conservator of Forest (Palakkad) K Vijayanand, who leads the probe panel, and Sangita Iyer, a Canadian-based documentary filmmaker, over a land deal to set up an elephant corridor.
KIFA has accused Vijayanand of receiving documents from Sangita on June 14, 2023 at the Ernakulam Press Club related to a land deal to set up an elephant corridor in Nilambur. KIFA chairman Alex Ozhukayil told TNIE that the forest department, replying to the association’s RTI query, had, however, said the Sangita’s NGO had not given a title deed, and that it was just a proposal.
“The Canada-registered NGO raised more than Rs 2.50 crore through crowdfunding for the land to develop the elephant corridor. The RTI reply revealed Sangita did not give any land to the forest department. We had raised the issue in the assembly through Nilambur MLA P V Anvar. On January 31, the assembly said neither Sangita nor her NGO had transferred any land to the government,” Alex said.
Alex said when KIFA contacted her, Sangita told them that since she is a Canadian citizen she does not have to convince them about her work on the elephant corridor. Sangita is yet to respond to TNIE’s messages for comments.
Meanwhile, Vijayanand told TNIE that the allegations were baseless. He said Sangita bought four acres of land for more than Rs 40 lakh in Nilambur for the elephant corridor.
“It’s a project under the Rebuild Kerala Initiative. Sangita initially purchased land under Nature Mates-Nature Club, a Kolkata-based NGO working towards wildlife conservation and awareness generation, as she is a Canadian citizen. In a letter printed on her letterhead, she had recently informed the state government that she purchased the land in her name,” said the forest officer who hails from Tamil Nadu.
Vijayanand said the state government has to take a call now. “I can vouch for the transparency of the deal,” he said.