Shimla: Debarred from timber distribution (TD) rights for over two years, many are averse to the new policy that the government intends to bring forth replacing the traditional one that was in place since the British administration managed the forests.
The new policy proposes to disburse local timber needs through the forest corporation at a price differential for poor and richer sections of society. Forest official disclosed that the under the new policy the TD rights could be availed once in 30 years for house construction and once in 15 years for carrying out repairs. A provision in the policy holds that while the father is alive, the son will not be entitled for any TD rights
Trashing it at the outset, Rakesh Singha, state secretary CPI (M) says, “The new policy is not going to serve the people.”
Kulbhushan Upmanyu, environmentalist from the Himalaya Niti campaign, says, “the process needs to be decentralized by involving village panchayats and not vesting sanction powers in the hands of the forest guards about the timber needs that people apply for.”
To stop misuse of TD rights, the High Court had stepped in, in 2006, and stopped all timber distribution for local needs. The state government was asked to come up with a new policy that was more transparent and misuse could be prevented.
Forest minister JP Nadda says, “We intend to restore the TD rights of the people and will bring the matter out of the courts.”
After framing a new policy the government is learnt to have placed it before the courts, for their consideration.
“The price for a timber log at Rs 400 for poor people and Rs 1200 for those above the poverty line is way above the conversion cost, which the people shelled out under the earlier policy,” say the Himalaya Niti activists.
“A clear attempt is being made to deny people their local rights which they enjoyed ever since they have settled in these hills. Their will be a heavy price to pay by alienating residents from their local forests,” says Singha.
He pointed out, “the hardships people are facing because of abrogation of their timber rights was witnessed when villages like Malana were devastated by fire last winter.”
“There was no mechanism to disburse timber to the hapless villagers and the government had to buy it at market rates and supply it to them,” said Singha.
Advocating joint forest managements by involving the people, Himalaya Niti campaigner’s state, “further alienation of people from the forests would result in increased illegal felling of trees that would be hard to contain by an ill-equipped foresters.”