LDF govt decides on high-level probe into alleged rosewood smuggling

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Thiruvananthapuram, June 11 (PTI): Kerala's ruling LDF government, under attack over the alleged mass felling and smuggling of centuries-old rosewood trees at a hamlet in Wayanad, on Friday decided to launch a high-level investigation into the matter.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the allegations of illegal cutting of trees would be investigated into by a special team comprising officials of the Crime Branch, the Forest Department and the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB).

He said strong action would be taken against the culprits involved in the smuggling of timber worth crores of rupees.

The trees were allegedly felled and smuggled from government-assigned lands in Muttil village in Wayanad district early this year.

'We are planning a high-level probe into the matter. A special team comprising members of Crime Branch, Forest department and Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) will launch the investigation,' Vijayan told reporters here.

Amid criticism that the rosewood trees were looted under the shield of an order issued by the State government last year, the Chief Minister said the order was issued considering the requests by the farmers' organisations.

'Farmers from Idukki raised this demand. But some people took advantage of such an order and we will take strong action against them,' he said.

The government took the decision to launch the high- level investigation a day after Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar sought a report from the Ministry officials on the issue and a BJP-NDA delegation, led by Union Minister V Muraleedharan, visited Muttil village.

Earlier today, Muraleedharan questioned the silence of Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi over the issue and said no one knows whether he has abandoned the constituency.

'Rahul Gandhi has not uttered a word over the issue so far though he is the sitting MP from here. Nobody knows whether it is yet to be brought to his notice or he has abandoned this constituency,' the Union Minister told reporters at Wayanad.

The Congress-led UDF also demanded a high-level investigation.

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