Christian Delegation meet PM in Kerala, Presses for Protection of Hill Communities

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Kerala Christian leaders.

Kochi: Catholic Church officials in the southern Indian state of Kerala met visiting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sought his intervention to protect communities in the state's hilly regions where the government is planning a conservation project.

The four member delegation of Church leaders headed by Bishop Varghese Chakkalakal of Calicut met Prime Minister Modi on Sept. 24 in Kerala to seek his intervention on the government's conservative project that threatens the sustainability of communities in the state's hilly region.

Government's move to preserve the hilly Western Ghats area that runs through Kerala will restrict farming, will adversely affect normal life for some 2.5 million farmers in the area, mostly Christians.

"We are not against protecting the ecology of the Western Ghats. We want it to be done by taking the people living there for generations into confidence. The farmers know the importance of the environment since their future is dependent on the environment," said the memorandum submitted to the prime minister.

The delegation also sought an exception on the government's Coastal Regulation Zone rules that imposes restrictions on constructions in coastal areas citing the state has an elongated narrow coastline that provides sustainability to the vast majority of population living within the 50 meter radius of the coastline. Current regulations ban even the construction of small huts within this radius.

After the meeting Father Abraham Kavilpurayidathil, chancellor of Thamarassery Diocese and a member of the delegation, expressed their satisfaction and said that PM assured them of keeping their concerns in mind while deciding on the said matter.

The problems faced by farmers following a fall in the prices of coconut, pepper and rubber, and the increasing incidents of man-animal conflicts in areas close to forests, were also taken up by the delegation during the 10-minutes they spent with the prime minister.

In the 10minute meeting the PM, the delegation also express their concern on the rising incidents of discrimination against Dalit Christians and incidents of persecution in several parts of the country seeking his intervention and urging him to take necessary steps to contain it.