Why only Coconut? What about Kullagar?

By Sandesh Prabhudesai
16 February 2016 20:57 IST

Is it true that Goa government has changed the definition of coconut in the Preservation of Trees Act? NO. Is it true that Goa government has declared coconut as grass? NO. Is it true that Goa government has deleted coconut from the definition of tree? NO. It is true that the word coconut no more exists in the Preservation of Trees Act? NO.

And it is not necessary to go and search in the government or legislature libraries or file RTI applications to verify these facts. Everything is available on the Internet. If you don’t know how to search it, fine, click here for the original Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act 1988 and here is the amendment bill – the Goa Preservation of Trees (Amendment) Bill, 2016.

In any act, section 2 always deals with all the definitions. Also in this original act, section 2 (j) deals with the definition of ‘Tree’. It does not include coconut. It cannot, because ‘tree’ as per this act needs to have branches. But in 2008, almost after 24 years, during the tenure of Digambar Kamat, coconut was included in the act, in a most unprecedented manner. The Congress government included ‘coconut’ in the definition of ‘tree’, not by changing the definition of tree in section 2, but by adding one line in section 1. The first section of any act always deals with ‘Short title, extent and commencement’. In this section, a sub-section was added as Section 1 A, which stated that “the term ‘tree’ used in this Act, shall, besides other trees, include coconut trees.”

But this was not all. There was another section 12 A, for which the insertion of coconut was made in section 1. Section 12 A dealt with “Removal of trees etc, which are in ruinous state or likely to fall.” The legislators had made a legal provision to deal with hundreds of complaints they were getting of fighting neighbours etc. Nobody was bothered about providing protection to coconut trees. This amendment of 2008 dealt only with the ruinous trees or trees likely to fall (his coconut on my house etc). During the whole MGP regime of 17 years and the regime/s of Congress and its defected groups, coconut trees were mercilessly cut for housing colonies, five star hotels and industrial projects. Nobody was bothered about saving coconut trees, protecting Goan identity or making love with the coconut trees.

But is it true that the amendments brought during Congress regime provided protection to coconut trees? YES.  And is it true that the recent amendment brought by the BJP government removes that protection? YES.

The 2008 amendment provided protection to coconut trees because the word coconut in the act was added in section 1, due to which it applied to the WHOLE act. The act primarily deals with four aspects: 1) Restriction on felling and removal of trees, 2) Obligation to plant trees, 3) Planting of adequate number of trees in blank areas and 4) Preservation of trees. The new addition was 5) Removal of trees etc, which are in ruinous state or likely to fall. Though the amendment was made for the additional fifth aspect, it applied to the whole act, thus providing protection to the coconut trees which are in good shape.

Taleigao-St Cruz Baand set for widening by cutting coconut trees

But this amendment created a new hurdle, especially for the coconut growers. Coconut plantation actually comes under the purview of Agriculture Department, but Preservation of Trees Act comes under the Forest Department. It’s a normal practice of the farmer to replace the coconut tree when its yield reduces drastically. The 2008 amendment created hurdles with the  normal practice of replacing the coconut tree by cutting the old tree and planting the new one. The agriculturist had to make rounds to the Forest Department to get the coconut tree cut and prove why it needs to be cut. This brought a fresh pressure on the legislators from the Bagayatdar, thus the new amendment 2016. In order to ‘free’ the agriculturist from this irritation, the BJP government made a correction. Section 1 A, which says the word coconut is added to the definition of tree, was deleted and the word ‘coconut’ was added in section 12 A, limiting it to ‘ruinous tree or a tree likely to fall’. But in the bargain, coconut tree is once again liberated from the act – after 8 years – and is back in the danger zone as it was during the regimes of the MGP, Congress, defected groups or the BJP, since 1961 to 2008. Once again, you don’t require permission to cut the coconut tree, except the one which is in ruinous condition.

The opposition, including the Congress, made a hue and cry over this amendment bill, as though coconut tree was well-protected all these years and the BJP is all out to destroy the Goan identity. In reality, no political party or the law-maker was bothered about saving coconut trees all these years. It got protected for eight years by default, not with an intention to save the coconut tree. The propaganda that the amendment is made to allow cutting of coconut trees in a land at Sanguem, which is approved for a distillery, is also completely false. The distillery owner is authorised to cut the coconut trees even without this amendment, because the project is approved by the Investment Promotion Board. This Board overrides all the existing acts in the state and authorises the industry owner to violate all the laws. Dr Claude Alvares has wisely explained how draconian this policy is (click here to read it). In fact Goa needs a state-wide agitation against the IPB, but wisely, the opposition only murmurs about it, does not oppose it wholeheartedly.

Also the opposition, sadly, did not bother to take up the coconut issue in a right perspective. Rather, it preferred spreading false information that coconut is being converted into grass, it’s entirely deleted from the act etc etc. The ruling BJP also could not defend its action with a convincing justification because its amendment finally permits cutting of coconut trees, which are in good condition, without permission from any authority. The whole discussion in the Assembly while passing the bill was pathetic. Everybody was playing to the TV camera and nobody was bothered to ‘legislate’. Even today, neither the opposition nor the ruling party is interested in resolving the issue. The issue has in fact become Dhobi ka Ghat, to wash each other’s dirty linen.

The only way the whole controversy has benefited is the awareness of Niz Goenkar about coconut. Quite a few coconut growers and traders like Uday Mhambro have come forward with a valid suggestion to have a Coconut Protection Act, on the lines of Philippines and Kenya, while deteatching it completely from the Preservation of Trees Act. Because coconut is neither a forest tree nor a coconut grower should be brought under the purview of Forest Department. Therefore a demand should be made not to include coconut back in the Preservation of Trees Act but to have a holistic act for coconut. And till then, the Governor of Goa should not give her assent to the amendment bill that is passed in the Assembly. The amendment bill should be put on hold.

But is it only coconut? What about arecanut? Both are palms and need equal protection. Maad Maadieo Kullagaram (माड माडयो कुळागरां) is close to every Goan’s heart. In fact the whole Kullagar, the unique concept of plantation trees found in the Konkan belt. It’s our identity as well as livelihood. Our Kullagar also contains trees of mango, jackfruit, papaya, bananas, guava, chikoo etc as well as different spices like pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon etc. And we have yet another identity – the Baand – on which grow the coconut trees as well as few other plantation trees. These Baand are today being destroyed to build or widen the roads, at the cost of Goa’s unique beauty. We need to protect, preserve, nurture and develop our unique Kullagar and our unique Baand – just not coconut trees.

Goa, thus, needs a Kullagar Protection Act!

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Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of HCN and Prudent, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities.

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Previous Comments

Usual rubbish that comes from journalists.

If all Goans love their Maad then why bring a law to protect it ? Why is a law required if everyone loves Maad ?

People like Sandesh who are well off want to pass laws at the expense of poor farmers. It makes sense for lot of framers to get rid of the coconut trees and convert their land into something that can make more money. It is the right of those farmers to use their personal property.

In fact it makes sense for Goa government to further dergulate all trees.

- Aryan, Panaji | 18 th February 2016 10:07

 

Sandeshbab you are great. Really great. You have studied and dissected the issue like a lawyer. At the same time you have tried to awaken the Goans(pretending to sleep) about the need to protect kulaghar. Only this patch of Goa has remained like oasis. Keep up.

- Madhav Bastodker, Ponda | 17 th February 2016 10:10

 

Very good article Sandesh. Certainly an eye opener.Vijay Sardesai who is leading anti Maad agitation should read this.

- Parag Hede, Panaji,Goa. | 16 th February 2016 22:14

 

Very well explained Sandeshbab.

- UDAY MHAMBRO, Savoi Verem Volvoi | 16 th February 2016 21:47

 

Very detailed Sandesh. Thank you for all the explanation, which makes a simple "narl" like me understand the issue of the coconut tree.

Just one question, from a simple narl, after seeing the picture of the bandh in Taliegao... Can't we save those coconut trees by ensuring that the roads are built on the sides and thus use the straight line of coconut tress as the road dividers? just a simple mans thinking.... since it is just a inside road in the village.. Matters probably would be different if it was a highway, or a busy road.

Nowadays, politics rises above everything in Goa, so "khoim amche maad anik khoim amchim kullagharam"..... soglem zalam "Don Panam"---or else see the promotions where Goa is being promoted as a second home to rich people from outside Goa.

- Jaret de Silva, Chandor Goa | 16 th February 2016 21:32

 

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