A. S. Ponnanna

By P.T. Bopanna

Has A.S. Ponnanna (in picture), the newly elected Congress MLA from Virajpet in Kodagu (Coorg) district betrayed the trust of the voters by hobnobbing with the defeated BJP MLA K.G. Bopaiah?

In a bitterly fought Karnataka Assembly elections in May, voters sympathetic to the BJP had turned against Bopaiah who had been winning the Virajpet seat solely due to brand Modi. He had become very unpopular with the voters after his name was dragged into the “40 per cent commission” scam. 

In view of the animosity in which the elections were fought, people were taken aback when the sitting Congress MLAs Mantar Gowda (Madikeri constituency) and Ponnanna attended a meeting last week at Madikeri which was also attended by former BJP MLAs, Appachu Ranjan and Bopaiah, to chalk out a plan to oppose the Kasturirangan report on safeguarding forests in the Western Ghats. 

There has been suspicion among the people that the former BJP MLAs were trying to scuttle the implementation of the Kasturirangan report with a view to benefit the Kerala timber lobby. From the beginning, the BJP MLAs had misled the people into believing that the report would affect the entire district, without explaining to the people on the pros and cons of the report.

Since the track record of the former Kodagu BJP MLAs is suspicious, the present MLAs should initiate consultation with the people before arriving at any decision on the report. The previous MLAs have no locus standi in the issue. The consultation process will be vitiated if the defeated MLAs with vested interests were allowed to participate in the exercise.

There has to be threadbare discussions at the gram panchayat level and every village has to understand the benefits of implementing the Kasturirangan report. People of Kodagu should not be swayed by the misguiding narratives being pandered by the quarrying, sand mining and realtor lobbies. In fact some leaders have even got people to illegally occupy forests (that too sacred groves!) under the guise of ‘traditional forest dwellers’ to cultivate their vote banks!

The Western Ghats Ecology Expert committee headed by Prof Madhav Gadgil had recommended in 2011 to make the entire Kodagu district as eco sensitive area (ESA). However, due to sustained campaign by politicians, the Union government set up the Kasturirangan committee to review the Gadgil panel report.

The Kasturirangan Commission has sought to balance the two concerns of development and environment protection, by watering down the environmental regulation regime proposed by the Gadgil report. The Kasturirangan report sought to bring just 37% of the Western Ghats under the ESA zones — down from the 64% suggested by the Gadgil report.

Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Karnataka, B.K. Singh, has been quoted as saying that the Western Ghats have already been plundered for development and infrastructure projects. “This in turn has impacted human lives. We need to place an embargo on further destruction and degradation of these forests. If the state doesn’t accept the Kasturirangan report, it will only keep open the floodgates of destruction.”

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2 Responses

  1. Anu Chengappa says:

    Yes, the people of Kodagu have to be consulted before taking any step. People of Kodagu should not be swayed by the misguiding narratives being pandered by various lobbies with selfish motives. There are also ‘so called’ ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISTS who are actually erstwhile timber smugglers who have now become real estate agents liasoning with big names in the hospitality and land development industries. These elements are masquerading as saviours of the Kodagu ecology and as a result, the genuine voices of conservationists are getting subdued or over powered. The people of Kodagu have to wake up and realise that it is THEIR VOICE and not those of any of these vested interests that has to decide the next course. They have shown the power of ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ by giving a resounding victory to Mr. Manthar Gowda and Mr. A. S. Ponnanna, now it is the responsiblity of the people of Kodagu to ensure that their new representatives are not misled by vested interests. The people of Kodagu have to hold their elected representatives accountable to ensure that whatever is left of Kodagu is protected and conserved. If we dont want to learn from our 2018 experience, if we dont wake up from our slumber and shed our nonchalence, it will cost us our very existence and then even Mahadeva, Mathayi Kaveramme and Igguthappa cannot save us from doom!

  2. Balasubrahmanya K P says:

    Well said! The present MLAs are happy roaming around receiving felicitations and are yet to start serious service to the people by curbing corruption, controlling government departments and officials, and removing the present incumbents in various organisations. They seem to be scared to take any tough measures. May be they are new to political responsibilities, but should know that the Parliament elections are nearing and they are required to make political impressions by showing some paradigm shift in the district ongoings.

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