A villager in Goa wants to cut a tree growing in his backyard to mend his damaged roof. But he needs to get permission from the tree officer. And how does he get the permission? In a letter to the editor, a forester/villager, who wishes to remain anonymous, reveals the torturous procedure by which he finally manages to mend his roof
Down To Earth
SUBJECT: l The law: the Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984.
l Its aim: restrict felling of trees and reforest barren private lands.
l Application and result: Discourages people from planting trees. Makes a larger area barren.
I am a villager. I have a small patch of land and a small house. In the last rainy season, three rafters of the roof broke and the tiles are hanging precariously. I need to replace them.
I have a good marat ( Terminalia tomentosa ) tree in my backyard. Marat is good for rafters. I plan to fell this tree and plant a few teak trees in the space cleared. But, in Goa, it is against the law to fell the tree without permission of the tree officer.
So I go to office of the tree officer. I need to change buses thrice to get there. I start out early in the morning and reach the office in the afternoon. The tree officer asks me to fill Form b and submit it with the following:
i.Documents of proof of ownership of land
ii.Affidavit detailing why I need to fell the tree
iii.Plan of the property
iv.No Objection Certificates from each of the co-owners and from people who hold any tenancy rights on the land
v.Form i and xiv (index of land record) issued by the talathi of the village panchayat (issued by the mamlatdar in case of municipal area)
vi.No Objection Certificate from adjoining property owner/owners
Copies of all these are to be attested by a gazetted officer.
Next day I go to the village panchayat . The talathi is present. I request him for Form i and xiv . He asks me to give an application. Fortunately, I know the survey number and section number of my plot. (My neighbour is illiterate. He doesn't know his survey number. And he doesn't know how to write an application either.) I write down my application. The talathi asks for Rs 5 which I pay. He promptly give me a receipt and asks me to come the next day. (My talathi is not corrupt. In other villagers, they ask for Rs 50 and give the form in a week.)
I don't have any co-owners, nor do I have any tenants. (My friend has three brothers and seven tenants on record. It is easy to get No Objection Certificates if your brothers are staying in the city. Two of the tenants, who no longer till the land, refuse to sign the certificate. Fortunately, I don't have any such problems. Imagine if I had!)
I lost my plan of property. So I go to the land survey department in the city. I make an application. He asks me to come next month. I pay him Rs 100. He asks me to come tomorrow.
Next day I collect the plan from the survey office after paying Rs 10 to the peon.
The documents of ownership of land are with me. But they are in Portuguese. Since I am seeking permission to fell only one tree, I don't need to get my document translated into English.
So, one fine day, armed with Form b and all documents, I go to the office of the tree officer. I submit all my papers. The tree officer asks me go back home. I have to meet the local range forest officer for inspection of the tree. I return home.
The next day I go to the local range office. The ranger is out for inspections. I wait. He comes in the afternoon. I meet him. He tells me I have to remove the bark of a small portion of the tree and paint the tree number (in my case it is only one) in red oil paint. Have I measured the girth of the tree at chest height? I have. I have mentioned it in Form b .
The ranger does not have transport. So I have to arrange transport for him. No, bullock cart won't do. He needs at least a scooter. And I can come and meet him as soon as my application reaches his office. How do I know when he is going to get it? I have to check it myself. Either come to his office every day if I am in a hurry, or come next week. I prefer the latter.
A week later, my application is on the ranger's table. I arrange an autorickshaw for him. He comes for inspection. He measures the girth. I got it wrong by five centimetres. He says the tree is not mature so I won't get permission to cut it. But I need only three rafters. There's a big tree over there. No, he says, that won't do. I'll have to make a fresh application.
But, fortunately, my ranger is not corrupt. (Most of them are.) He's sorry for me and agrees to recommend the tree for felling. I am happy. But not yet. He'll now send the recommendation to the tree officer who will write back to me.
Ten days later, I get permission to fell the tree. (My tree officer has taken pity on me. Contractors pay him Rs 500 per application.)
With the help of a neighbour, I fell the tree. No, wait. I can't saw it yet. Under Rule 51 of the Goa Forest Rules, 1964 I have to apply in writing to the ranger. I also have to state the time I need to saw it. I also need to fill Form c for grant of permission to remove the tree.
Like I said, my ranger is not corrupt. He sends his forester to inspect and fill what is known as the lmb (Log Measurement Book). I arrange an autorickshaw for him and have to bribe him with Rs 20 -- it's a standard fee, he says.
Next I have to arrange transport for the ranger again. He comes and applies a "passing hammer" mark on my logs.
Last in the pecking order is the forest guard who agrees to come by bullock cart. He issues a transit pass to move the logs to the nearest saw mill. The pass cost me Rs 20 (standard rate, he says) and issues me a receipt for 50 paise.
I drop all plans to plant more trees. I would prefer that my land remains barren. Five years hence, I will get a good price for it from a building contractor.
I wonder if the Preservation of Trees Act has served its purpose.
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