Plantation companies in Karnataka owe ₹2,000 crore govt.: Khandre

January 10, 2024 07:42 am | Updated 07:42 am IST - Bengaluru

Eshwar Khandre

Eshwar Khandre | Photo Credit:

Minister for Forest, Ecology and Environment Eshwar Khandre on Tuesday said that many private plantation companies in the State owe the government about ₹2,000 crore in lease rentals and interest on dues.

Forest land in Kodagu, Chamarajanagar, and other districts has been leased since pre-Independence to private plantation companies who owe the government ₹2,000 crore in addition to the interest.

To be recovered

The Minister said that the arrears would be recovered and a special team under the leadership of B.P. Ravi, who is Principal Secretary of the Environment Department, would be formed to collect the dues.

In addition, he said that a special legal cell would be created to fight the legal battle for speedy settlement of the cases in the court.

“We have more than 5,500 acres of forest land in the State. Long-term leases of 99 years were granted to various companies and individuals during the British rule at ₹2 per acre. Some leases were renewed before the Forest Protection Act came into force after the Independence. In 1997, the lease rate was increased by ₹5,000 per hectare and the companies went to court challenging this. These companies have not paid the lease for decades,” Mr. Khandre said.

The Minister said that as per available information, Merkera Rubber Ltd. has leased 1,074 acres of land and has to pay ₹454 crore with interest till March 2015, Thomson Rubber India Ltd. has leased 625 acres and has to pay ₹91.29 crore, Nilambur Rubber Company Ltd. has leased 713 acres and has to pay ₹130.22 crore. He explained that Portland Rubber Estate Ltd. has leased 1,288 acres and has arrears of ₹536.66 crore till 2022.

In addition, Glen Lauren Plantation Pvt. Ltd. and Tata Coffee Ltd. have jointly leased 943 acres of forest land and have to pay arrears of ₹524 crore, including lease money, interest, and penalty. He said that ₹25.36 crore was due till 2015 from Honnammati Nilgiri Plantation Ltd. of Chamarajanagar and others.

On wildlife trophies

The Minister said the government was providing a three-month window to return wildlife trophies such as deer horn, tiger claw, jewellery made out of elephant hair and others to the government starting January 16. He said that these items could be returned to the nearest Forest Department office from January 16 onwards and they would be given a receipt when returned.

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