Udhagamandalam: Drawing the ire of green activists, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has reportedly stayed and celebrated New Year in a private resort, declared "illegal" and directed to be closed by court, in the Bokkapuram forest area coming under the elephant corridor in Tamil Nadu. The Madras High Court had directed many of the resorts in the region to be closed as they were located in the elephant corridor, following which the electric fencing was removed from area, some months back. However, the owners have approached the Supreme Court, where the case is pending.
The State Revenue department had arranged for Khurshid and his family's stay at the State VIP Guest House in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve as part of protocol but he preferred to stay at the resort "which was declared illegal and directed to be closed," by the court, forest department sources said. Environmentalists and green movement activists, including K Mohanraj, coordinator, Tamil Nadu Green Movement, condemned the stay, contending that it was violation of Forest Act and also Contempt of Court.
The resort, said to be owned by a relative of Khurshid, comes under Sigur Plateau, which has been notified as elephant corridor and "still a disputed and controversial site," Mohanraj said. Meanwhile, Khurshid and the family after celebrating the new year, proceeded to a private guest house at Gudalur, about 70 km from Udhagamandalam, on Tuesday night, sources said, adding, he later left for Bandipur in Karnataka. The forest department had banned New Year celebrations and bursting of crackers inside the area since the last 10 days, the sources said.
The Madras High Court had directed many resorts in the area to be closed as they were located in the elephant corridor.