Thursday, March 16, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Rs 70,000 deodar tree for Rs 1.60
1879 rates for right-holders
From S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

SHIMLA, March 15 — Want to have a high class deodar tree worth over Rs 70,000 for Rs 1.60? Come to Himachal Pradesh and somehow get yourself registered as a right holder.

The average cost of deodar trees for the right holders was fixed at about 64 paise per cubic metre about 121 years ago in 1879 during a forest settlement. However, the rates have never been revised although the market price of per cubic metre of deodar timber has now touched Rs 25,000.

The right holders were being supplied standing green deodar trees at different rates in various areas, but these range between Rs 1 to Rs 8 per tree. The system is generally known here as Timber Distribution Rights (T.D. Rights).

Although various forests have vanished over the years because of the timber distribution system, political pressures have prevented the successive governments from either totally scrapping the system or enhancing the rates.

The timber distribution system for the right holders has also led to largescale evasion of taxes and smuggling of high class timber.

The oldest settlement of forest was done in Kulu in 1886 by Anderson when the rate of a deodar tree was fixed at Rs 3 for the right holders. The rate of a tree was 50 paise in Kotgarh. It has been the tendency to secure the best trees for felling under the timber distribution rights. Unbelievably, these rates were still continuing.

Records reveal that not even a single penny was ever increased in the price of timber for the right holders. An exercise was undertaken in the Parvati valley area of Kulu in 1913 when the deodar trees were categorised and their rates fixed between 25 paise and Rs 7.

Most of the forest settlements were done between 1879 to 1915 when the rates of trees for the right holders of different areas were fixed.

A full-grown deodar tree, which would fetch around Rs 40 in the market in 1921, was sold for Rs 69,432 in 1994. Now the price has escalated manifold.

Trees were allowed to be cut free of cost in the Kangra area till 1856 for construction of houses and the timber distribution rates were fixed in 1873 when Anderson conducted the forest settlement.

Sources said that timber worth Rs 53 crore in the open market was allotted to the right holders in the state at a throwaway price of only Rs 40,000 in 1997-98.

1.21 lakh cubic metre of timber worth about Rs 61 crore was allotted to the right holders in 1991-92 for which a sum of Rs 49,000 was realised by the government.

Timber measuring 1.40 lakh cubic metre was granted during 1992-93 on the subsidised rate of Rs 46,000 although the actual market rate of the volume was Rs 80 crore. A lesser volume of 75,000 cubic metre of timber worth about Rs 45 crore was granted to the right holders in 1993-94 for which the government fetched just about Rs 29,000.

Timber measuring 95,000 cubic metre was granted to this privileged class in 1994-95 at a price of Rs 32,000 although its market value was around Rs 55 crore.

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