SIT has started collating information about illegal tree felling cases in Kerala in the past years
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the illegal felling of endangered trees on revenue land in Kerala has reportedly inferred that connivance at multiple levels of the administration had enabled the environmental crime.
Officials said the illegal felling of centuries-old rosewood trees at South Muttil village in Wayanad was just the tip of the iceberg. It appeared the crime was old and widespread in Kerala.
The SIT has started collating information about illegal tree felling cases, including complaints, registered by various agencies, including the Revenue Department, in Kerala in the past years.
Officials said the data, when collated, would give investigators a clearer picture of the scale of the offence in the State.
On June 15, the Crime Branch (CB) had registered an FIR in connection with the Muttil case. However, it has not named any individual as accused.
Investigators said the offenders had used a misinterpreted Revenue Department order to give the timber theft some semblance of legal cover.
They recruited loggers from the tribal community in Wayanad to cut down rosewood on assigned land. The accused used the order to persuade COVID-19 hit farmers to sell the expensive trees for a pittance. A set of Forest, Revenue and check-post officials enabled the crime. Some, including local politicians, turned a blind eye citing farmer interest. As a result, few higher-ups profited from the racket.
In Wayanad, a Forest team led by DFO P. Dhanesh Kumar had impounded the entire loot. However, the same was not the case in other Revenue and Forest Department jurisdictions.
The CB has to detect the theft, identify the fellers and recover the stolen timber. Several timber depots, furniture marts and perhaps interior designers might come under the ambit of the probe.
The agency would also have to probe the suspicion that rosewood from Kerala had ended in foreign shores, particularly ports in South East Asia.
Additional Director General of Police, Crime Branch, S. Sreejith, is heading the SIT.
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