This year's flood has caused 110 deaths. Last year's flood caused 483 deaths. Almost a hundred years ago Travancore, now a part of Kerala, witnessed devastation too. Nothing much seems to have changed.The Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan led the state very well during last year's flood. This year too he is trying his best to tackle the situation. So far no rival political parties have said a word against him, so far so good. The government has announced in view of this year's flood that houses will not be permitted in fragile areas in Idukki and Wayanad districts.
The district collectors and local officers have been directed not to permit new buildings which violate the fragile parts of the districts. Last year too this was done, so that means there is no guarantee that this will be carried out now. The assembly didn't pass a resolution nor did the state government issue an ordinance. That creates doubts; quite serious ones. The CPM and the Congress cannot take any position in this matter. For the CPM and the Congress are scared they will lose votes of the Christians who have a large number of voters in the 3 districts of Kottayam, Idukki and Wayanad. Surprisingly the BJP hasn't yet said where it stands on this crucial issue.
I feel that a strong decision has to be taken by the centre on Madhav Gadgil and Kasturi Rangan's reports because the matter pertains to six states with a vote of nearly 30 crore people. The Congress had the reports but did nothing about it. Now the ball is in Modi's court. One hopes that he will announce his stand on the issue. The Gadgil report was pro ecology. It was opposed by the Kerala Congress, the Marxists, the CPI and the Congress for reasons that are political. Achuthanathan has publicly stated that he supports the Gadgil report. This shows that the CPM is divided on the issue of backing the Gadgil report or that of Kasturi Rangan.
The vote matters, that is their primary and only concern, it seems. The Gadgil report was opposed mainly by the Christians and the Bishops who came to forefront saying that it was against the farmers, which doesn't wash. But the masses of Idukki and Wayanad took it for Gospel truth. The then Congress chief minister Oommen Chandy joined hands with them and appointed a Commission to look into the matter. The commiion gave its report to the state. That is how the issue stands. Unsettled for 6 years and the people of Kerala have to pay a heavy price and the matter is now before the prime minister.
The BJP has to decide whether Kasturi Rangan's report or Madhav Gadgil's report is to be accepted. Therein lies the matter which has cost nearly 600 Malayalis deaths; a heavy price that we paid. The Gadgil report was pro ecology and simultaneously not against farmers. The Kasturi Rangan report diluted the Gadgil report. The Gadgil report says the state should put an end to mining and quarrying which has generated huge amount of money to Kerala Congress, the Congress and the CPM. No wonder the other states have also opposed the move to put an end to mining and quarrying and the Catholic Church is in cahoots with diluting vested interests.
This we cannot tolerate any longer. Kerala which was known as God's Own Country will become the devil's own country if these reports are not implemented. I think Kasturi Rangan report by diluting Gadgil report has not done any good to the state of Kerala. The Kasturi Rangan report mentions 123 villages to be ecologically fragile under ecologically sensitive areas (ESA). It was too much that Oommen Chandy the last Congress CM sought further dilution of the report and appointed Oommen. The Gadgil Committee had suggested the demolition of dams which have survived for many decades. The Kasturi Rangan report hasn't suggested this.
The Gadgil report was for the gram panchayat's to be given more power. The Kasturi Rangan report was submitted in August 2013. Over 56,000 square kilometers of ecologically sensitive areas in the Western Ghats could not be ear marked as a no- go zone thanks to state government's insensitivity. So the ball is in the Centre's court. It has to take a decision which goes against the parties stand on this for money's sake. The same problem the CPM has. The same was the problem with the Congress. The masses have a different problem. Many residents of Idukki and Wayanad have spent the money gained by selling their properties in Kottayam for purchase of lands at a lower cost and they have been misled by the priests with their own interests supreme.
In short this is the problem of Kerala. The BJP has to take a call on this. The Modi government which has generated high hopes for the people irrespective of their caste will hopefully decide. I am reminded of what the former editor in chief of The Times and The Himalayan Times said, C'est la vie. The CPM should not play games with the people. Nobody can be fooled forever. They might go and back the BJP considering that they have no faith in the party they have supported for years. The Congress is in a dilemma, a perpetual problem it had and will have.
All problems will be solved if the CPM and the BJP take a decision. The priests will have no choice in the matter.
(The facts and views mentioned in the article are of the writer.)