By P.T. Bopanna
Two top women officials of Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka have sent shivers down the spine of the notorious timber mafia who were a law unto themselves all these years. The Kodagu Deputy Commissioner Annies K. Joy and the SP Dr Suman D. Pennekar (in picture) have finally shown the mafia their place.
Feeling the heat unleashed by the two women officials, the secretive timber mafia have finally come out in open defiance and threatened to launch “stern protests” against the restrictions being placed on the felling and transport of timber.
It was an open secret that legislators and government official in Kodagu are on the payroll of the timber lobby which has the backing of a powerful minister.
It became evident last week that the clout of the timber lobby was on the wane when the Karnataka government suspended Madikeri DCF M. Manjunath who had given permission for felling 808 trees in an ecologically sensitive area. The mass felling of trees shocked the people in Kodagu who were yet to recover from the massive landslides which devastated the district last year.
Finally, chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy stopped the felling of trees and ordered an inquiry which led to the suspension of the DCF.
Close on the heels of the suspension of the DCF, the Kodagu police led by superintendent of police Dr Suman D. Pennekar arrested the kingpin of the timber mafia Kallichanda Noban and seized timber worth Rs 1 crore following a raid on his house.
In the wake of the curbs placed on the felling and transportation of trees in view of the monsoon and the poor condition of the roads, the District Land Owners’ and Timber Vendors’ Association vice president K. A. Adam said that a memorandum will be submitted to the deputy commissioner to lift the ban on felling and transportation of timber. If no favourable response is obtained, “stern protests would be inevitable”.
The time has come for the people of Kodagu to show their solidarity with the top district officials in curbing the activities of the timber lobby. If the ecology of Kodagu and Western Ghats is not protected, the consequences could be devastating for the entire South India as Kodagu is the main catchment area for river Cauvery.