India —BNAGPUR: Taking a foot backward, Maharashtra has relaxed the stringent condition of forfeiting earnest money deposit (EMD) of tendu contractors in the advent of forest fires, but will impose a fine if fires occur in tendu units.
Over 450 contractors from Maharashtra and neighbouring states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh had boycotted the tendu auctions in the state on January 30 protesting against the harsh condition that if fired spread in beyond one hectare in a tendu unit sold to the bidder/licensee, the said auction will be cancelled immediately and no compensation will be paid to the licencee. Besides, EMD will be forfeited. For the first time in the state there will be e-auction for tendu units.
On February 4, 2012 a meeting between the state government and contractors was held in Mumbai to end the impasse. Accordingly, on March 2 the government has issued a notification making certain changes in the condition.
Speaking to TOI, Ramanuj Choudhary, additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF) for non-timber forest produce (NTFP), monitoring and evaluation, said tendu contractors will have to play a pro-active role now.
“After their tender is accepted they will have to prepare an action plan to prevent forest fires in coordination with respective deputy conservators (DyCFs). They will have to appoint a team of 5 men to protect forests from fires,” Choudhary said.
The APCCF said the contractors will have to publicise that forest fires don’t help in better tendu yield as is the myth. Publicity is to be made by displaying posters and distributing handbills in villages and through gram sabha meetings. “The forest department will also take all possible efforts to prevent fires,” he added. There is plan to collect over 7.16 lakh standard bags this year from sale of 463 units.
Choudhary said the contractors will now have to produce a certificate from the deputy conservators that they took enough efforts to prevent forest fires – even if fires had occurred in their tendu units. Cancellation of tendu auction or forfeiting of EMD will depend on certification by the respective DFOs.
Choudhary said if 5% of the tendu unit area is burnt, it will imply a fine of Rs 5,000 per hectare; Rs 10,000 per hectare for fire in 5 to 10% area and fires above 10% will imply a fine of Rs 20,000 per hectare.
The deputy conservators have been told to prepare a list of villages where forest fires have been recorded in more than one hectare area before the start of tendu auction process. In such villages, tendu collection will not be done and hence wages and bonus will not be paid.
“All the forest officials concerned have been directed to hold meetings in villages and apprise them about the new norms,’ said Choudhary.