Eight months after the Forest Minister granted relaxation in certain norms in the Kerala Forest Produce Transit Rules 1975, to the timber merchants of Kallai regarding storage of wood, hundreds of traders are yet to get its benefit, owing to procedural delay.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting convened by former Forest Minister K B Ganesh Kumar with forest officials and the representatives of Timber Merchants Association, Kallai, in Thiruvananthapuram on February 15, 2013.
He had also assigned Divisional Forest Officer (Timber Sales) Kozhikode, V K Sreevalsan, with the task of submitting a proposal for amending the rules. However, according to Timber Merchants Association president T K Kandakutty, the traders of Kallai are yet to benefit from the minister’s decision.
“We understand that the order concerned from the Forest Department is yet to reach the office of the DFO in Kozhikode. We are afraid that there is hardly any follow- up from the ministeriallevel in the matter after the resignation of Ganesh Kumar from the post, soon after the meeting,’’ he said.
When contacted, DFO Sreevalsan says he has already sent the proposal to the higher-ups in this regard and the final order is likely to be issued soon. “After scrutiny at the forest headquarters, we were directed to resubmit the proposal with slight modifications.
The revised proposal was also sent. Hopefully, the order will be issued soon,’’ he says. As per current rules, it is compulsory for timber traders to register their property marks separately for each depot at the offices of the respective divisional forest officers.
For this, the traders should own a certain area of land. The timber merchants of Kallai have always objected to this regulation stating that it is against the traditional system being followed there and maintain that it will adversely affect the timber industry.
Once the government notification comes into effect, it will not be mandatory for the timber traders of Kallai to have a separate yard for storing timber. They will be allowed to store timber on yards of other mill owners after submitting an affidavit to the forest department.
According to Kandakutty, one major factor that contributed to the decline of the traditional timber industry in Kallai is the authorities’ refusal to understand and appreciate the uniqueness of the system that flourished here for centuries.
“Traders here used to keep timber in a single site and entrust a ‘mooppan’ with its security. The system worked well for centuries, before the authorities effectively outlawed it.
They made the Forest Property Mark Registration compulsory for a trader to move timber from one place to another. The registration is only given to traders who have space in their mills to keep the timber, effectively putting small traders out of business,” he says