Ordinance will promote afforestation: Mani

KOCHI NOV. 13. The Law and Revenue Minister, K.M. Mani, has said that the ordinance approved by the Cabinet permitting to cut and remove nine varieties of trees will provide a boost to the afforestation programme.

Addressing a press conference at the Ernakulam Guest House on Thursday, Mr. Mani said the Kerala Promotion of Tree Growth in Non-Forest Areas Ordinance (2003), approved by the Cabinet, would lead to extensive cultivation of trees in private land since they would become a source of revenue for the land-owners.

The ordinance gives exemption to cut and remove nine varieties of trees including teak, rosewood, irul, thenmavu, kambakam, chembakam, chadachi, chandanaveppu and chenni standing on private land without any permission from the Government.

Sandalwood, however, was not included in this list, he said. These trees were also exempted from the timber transit rules.

For felling trees like teak, rosewood, irul, thenmavu, kambakam, vellakkal and ebony, the land-owner should give a declaration to the local forest officer showing the survey number of the land, name of the tree and the measurement of the timber, he said.

The Minister said the Cabinet had decided to issue ordinances on the Kerala Stamp Act (Amendment), 2003, and the Kerala Land Reforms Act (Amendment), 2003, besides deciding to present all the 21 bills recommended by the Law Reforms Committee before the House at the next session.

The Kerala Stamp Duty (Amendment) Ordinance seeks to reduce the present rate of stamp duty for land transactions by half, in order to cut down the tendency of stamp duty evasion which springs from the present high rates.

The rates will come down to 6 per cent for panchayats (present rate 12 per cent), seven per cent for municipalities (14.5 per cent at present) and eight per cent in Corporations (15.5 per cent at present). This slashing would not reduce Government revenue but only increase it, as the practice of evading duty would be lessened, the Minister said.

Likewise, the Kerala Land Reforms Act Amendment Ordinance seeks to include cashew trees as plantation crop in order to give exemption to the limits imposed by the existing Act. This aimed at promoting the cultivation of cashew, according to the Minister.

The Kerala State Housing Board (Amendment) Ordinance, seeking to give exemption to the loan provisions of the Kerala State Housing Board, and the Kerala Transparency in Public Purchase Ordinance were under consideration, he said.

Congress crisis: Mr. Mani demanded quick action from the Congress party high command to resolve the internal crisis in the State Congress unit. He said the functioning of the Government would have been more smooth but for the crisis in the Congress.

Dragging the crisis further would not help, Mr. Mani said. However, the Minister strongly denied the accusations that there was stagnation in the functioning of the Government.

He said the crisis was the internal issue of the Congress party. He asserted that there was no question of the Government losing majority. The statements being issued by the KPCC president, K. Muraleedharan, was his personal opinions, Mr. Mani said. He was of the opinion that convening the House was the prerogative of the Chief Minister and Cabinet.