The Nagaland Timber Traders’ Union (NTTU) Sunday said that the consignment of timber seized by Custom officials at Guwahati railway station, was “legal timber” and that the Custom officials had no authority to seize the timber.
Executive members of NTTU at an emergency meeting held in Dimapur Sunday evening termed the action of the Custom officials as “illegal” and in contravention to the directive of the Supreme Court relating to export of timber from Nagaland.
Nagaland Timber Traders’ Union in a press release signed by president Kevise Sogotsu, general secretary Alem Pongener, vice presidents Husca Zhimomi and N John Zeliang and treasurer Sanyi Dukru, stated that as per the directive of the Supreme Court, Nagaland was allowed systematic logging operation under the guidelines laid down by the apex court.
“Accordingly Nagas were allowed to prepare working schemes for systematic logging operations, which is also approved by the Ministry of Environment & Forests,” Nagaland Timber Traders’ Union said.
The apex timber body also said that since Naga villagers started teak plantation some 30-40 years back, the state government also passed the Nagaland Tree Felling Regulation, 2002, permitting the villagers to cut down plantation trees and sell them outside the state.
On reports that the seized timber (teak and pine) were of “foreign origin” and not from Nagaland, NTTU challenged the Custom department to come for spot verification.
“Teak plantation is carried out in many districts and pine is also found in abundance in districts like Phek, Peren, Kiphire and Zunheboto. The teak plantation in Nagaland is in terms of crores of rupees,” Nagaland Timber Traders’ Union said.
The union also countered reports that the timber consignment was worth around Rs. 80 crores.
“The value of one wagon of timber including all expenses is Rs. 15-16 lakhs only and the total amount of 42 wagons will hardly come to Rs. 7-8 crore. Therefore the reports that the consignment was worth Rs. 80 crore or Rs. 100 crore is far-fetched,” the union said.
Nagaland Timber Traders’ Union reminded the Custom department that unlike other states including Assam, Nagaland state is declared “non-forest” and therefore systematic logging and exporting timber is allowed.
The union further questioned the motive of the Custom department in seizing the “legal timber” and added that such “unwarranted” seizure have put a big question mark on the fate of hundreds of teak plantations in Nagaland.