Post Mortem

The plight of the tree farmers of nagaland

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 3/20/2020 12:21:11 PM IST

 The Constitution of India has not explicitly mentioned but Supreme Court in a judgement has given a verdict that Right to Life which is a fundamental right under article 21 cannot be supported without the right to livelihood and therefore as Supreme Court is the highest court, it is also the law of the land and right to livelihood is a constitutional right.

In contrary to this verdict, our state government is contemplating on adopting a policy to curtail the basic right to livelihood by way of banning export of timbers outside North Eastern States that is done through wagon allotments on quarterly basis which is going to badly have an impact on the livelihood of hundreds of naga families that are genuinely involved in tree farming business. 

Unlike any states, the resources of Nagaland, be it land, forest, or minerals comes under the direct control of the state as Nagaland enjoys a special status under Article 371 (a) since its creation in 1963. In this regard, the state government has every right to alter or enact laws concerning the state subject(s), but a law that deprives her citizens to access right to livelihood would create a very negative image of our popular government.

In Nagaland, unfortunately we dont have a natural forest reservoir where citizens can depend for one’s livelihood, anything that has to do with tree farming and cultivation is done privately as right of indigenous people to maintain their own ways of life, including the right to use resources in their own land which they traditionally had access for subsistence since time immemorial.

In this tree farming business, we follow all the norms and procedures as laid down by the government such as qualifying the criteria of conversion of timbers as set by High Powered Commission (HPC) constituted by the SIT, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India, payment of royalty to the state government at the rate of Rs. 42/- per Cft for round logs form (teak), GST @ of 18% irrespective of timber classes, realization of royalty on round log basis. Etc, not forgetting, in line with our motto “Deriving & Delivering” we maintain forest management activities in order to give back to the nature as well.

The recent development which is going to put a ban on export of sawn timbers outside the state and permit export of finished goods only would have a unconventional brunt on us because of various factors involved.

Just for processing of timber we have to undergo four stages such as felling of trees, seasoning of timber, conversion and preservation of timber, besides that, timbers are likely to crack, wrap, bend and decay, if not properly seasoned and not treated with the preservatives. Moreover, there are many applications for which timber is unsuitable due to durability issues, it requires careful regular maintenance, if not readily available, it proves to be costly, It is also susceptible to termite attack if not maintained properly. As timber is natural and cellular it moves with changes in climatic conditions,  timber shrinks, swells, twists and cracks over time under different climatic conditions and most timbers are prone to pest, rot, mold and fungi attacks and to produce finished goods, we need skilled labours, which is not readily available and would also cost wastage of time, energy and investment in the long run. It is also worth mentioning that the finished products produced by us won’t meet the eyes of the buyers in the metropolitan cities and in this modern digital age, our products cannot compete with the high tech furniture pieces.

The most important reason for the distressful plight of the tree farmers in Nagaland is that we are small and marginal farmers, who are dependent for our survival on this trade alone without any other source of incomes.

In the state of Mizoram, the government keeping in view the welfare of the tree farmers has recently alloted total number of 588 (five hundred eighty eight) teak wagons for the quarter till May 2020 wherein the tree farmers can export their cultivated goods in the forms of round logs, whereas in Nagaland, we hardly get provison for 30 to 40 wagons in general for one quarter and it is disheartening to learn that the government is deliberating on snatching away that facility. The Human Right to Livelihood is the human right of all to a dignified and productive livelihood which enables us to live in peace, security, justice and dignity. All of us have the fundamental human right to fulfilling, dignified work and livelihood, including equal access to productive resources and to basic labor protections.

In the light of the above facts, the Nagaland Tree Planters’ Association (NTPA) would like to earnestly beseech the constitutional government to kindly contemplate on the genuine grievances of the tree farmers of Nagaland and put a hold on banning of timber export by wagons outside the state and continue with the old system of allowing export of timbers through by-road within North Eastern States and allotment of wagons on quarterly basis for export of timbers outside North East.

Issued by, Media Cell

Nagaland Tree Planters’ Association (NTPA)

Hqrs: 247 - Midland, Dimapur; Nagaland

 

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