Kerala

No water for Ducks – Practically and Legally!

IMG_0159

One of my clients who is engaged in rearing of duck, wanted to know the various licenses he should have, to conduct his duck farm, legally. He had none at present. But, during the dawn of Goods and Service Tax, he wanted to know the details of other licenses required to conduct duck farming .

In Kerala, duck farming is regulated under the Kerala Panchayat Raj (Licensing of Livestock Farms) Rules, 2012. According to the Rules, one can rear 15 poultry birds in one cent of land. In addition to that, based on the number of birds reared, there should be Fertilizer Pits (വളക്കുഴി), and burial pits (if there are more than 5000 birds), for the farm. The license is to be issued by the Secretary of the concerned Grama Panchayat. The certificates from the Pollution Control Board and District Medical Officer, are necessary, though it can be exempted by the Secretary, if it is so felt by him, on basis of location of the farm.

However, there is a catch to all these. The farm cannot be operated in a paddy land. This is because, according to Kerala Conservation of Paddy land and Wetland Act, 2008, the Panchayat is prohibited from issuing any license in any property classified as Paddy Land. My client was operating his duck farm in a paddy land. Although his land is only partially reclaimed, the entire land is included in the data bank as paddy land. So he cannot get any license from the Panchayat.

This is an anomaly in the law as ducks are traditionally reared in paddy fields.  Although I suggested to my client to file a writ petition, to cure the anomaly, he declined to proceed with a case. He rather preferred to do his business under the radar of law, having done so, peacefully, for the last several years. When I pressed him for the real reason for his hesitation, the answer astonished me.

Conventionally, although ducks require amble amount of puddled water for growth; in poultry farms, they are reared in cages, without taking them to water. My client has vast extent of wetland but none of his ducks have the fortune to swim in it. So according to my client, if a case is filed to cure the anomaly in law, it may backfire, questioning his very method of duck farming.

One thing is very clear. In Kerala, ducks and farmers are in a state of Catch 22.

If one rears ducks in paddy fields, then he will not get license, and it is rather illegal; and if he rears ducks in a dry land, then ducks will be in cages deprived of their natural environment and growth. Of course, ducks can be reared in household ponds, but that is never done in large scale.

In short, there no water for ducks, practically and legally. In other words, law prevents organic farming of ducks in Kerala.

Epson M205 All-in-One Mono Ink Tank Printer – User Review

It was with much expectations that I bought Eposon M205 Print/Scan/Copier Ink Tank Inkjet printer, three months back, from Flipkart.com. But within these three months, I had to call the customer service center thrice to repair the printer. The basic problem with this printer is with its paper feeder. The paper feeder of the printer (not ADF), is noisy and seriously faulty. The printer does not intake the papers properly. And even if it does, many times, the printer would simply eject the paper without printing anything, as if the paper was not inserted properly. It is a frustrating exercise to print 10pages in this printer.

Another problem with this printer is with its paper-jam-sensors. Even if no paper is jammed inside the printer, it would show that some paper is jammed inside. Switching the printer off-n-on for two to three times, would magically remove the jammed paper, and resolve the problem.

The Customer Service Center of Epson in Kochi, Kerala is another frustrating point. They would never answer the phone in their published phone number. One has to go to that place and invite the person to repair the printer. Once they could not even repair the printer at one go, but made me wait for a week for obtaining some part of this faulty printer.

On a whole, I would not recommend this printer to anyone. If Epson is kind enough to take mine back and refund my money, I would be much obliged !

Podcast replaces FM Radio

I have 20 minutes drive to reach my office at Paramara Road. In the car while driving, Radio Mango 91.9 and Club FM 94.3 were my companions to kill the traffic. But things changed when I downloaded ‘Podcast Addict’ in my mobile phone. It has a wide range of on-demand audio entertainment programs to enjoy the spare the time spent inside the car. My favourite podcast stations are:

  1. Economist – Editors Pick
  2. BBC Documentaries
  3. Legal Talk Network
  4. TED Radio Hours
  5. Criminal
  6. This American Life

Podcast has the edge to kill the dominance of FM Radio inside the car. I am sure, some time in near future, this is going to happen, in Kerala too.

Hurdles in turning Kerala green!

It was World Earth Day yesterday and all people ranging from radio jokeis to politicians were crying for planting more trees in Kerala. I have planted lot of trees in this world. My home is surrounded with so many trees that the place can be safely described as amini private forest. My father and I have planted lot of aanjili, mahogany and aariveep trees alone the roadsides of Aluva-Munnar Road. From my experience as a person who has planted many trees, there are several small small hurdles, in the character of malayalees and laws implemented here, which need to be corrected, if we are actually serious about increasing the tree cover. They are enumerated hereunder for identifying the huddles in turning Kerala Green.

  1. Roadside Advertisers and Billboards: These people are the single biggest enemy of trees in Kerala. They like to have a clear view for their advertisements and to ensure that, they would cut down all trees and plants in the vicinity. Why aren’t they banned or regulated yet?
  2. Municipality Sweepers: Municipality sweepers like to keep their workload small. Whenever they see one newly planted sapling, they would ensure that all the waste swept from the city is collected at bottom of that plant, and would set it afire, so that plant does not generate any new waste in future, for them to sweep.
  3. Electricity Linemen: KSEB has a team of people with sickles attached to long rods to cut trees. Although they are supposed to prune the branches alone, to avoid touching with the electricity lines, they often cut the head of the tree itself, dwarfing the tree and impairing its growth.
  4. Dangerous Trees and abuse of S.133CrPC: The law says that if a tree is danger to man or his property, or if it is a nuisance to his neighbour, it shall be cut down. Section 133 CrPC is invoked by the RDO to cut down such trees. According to me, this provision is much due for repeal or reading down. It has outlived its purpose, and is in fact a burden upon this generation, which is striving to increase tree cover.
    How can the RDO determine whether a tree is good, bad or decaying, when he is no expert of trees? Why should a tree be cut down just because a dimwitted neighbour thinks that it is a nuisance? Although Kerala Promotion of Tree Growth in Non-Forest Areas Act, 2005, permit persons to freely plant trees in his land and ‘appropriately and generally’ contribute to the increasing tree cover, no RDO or Court ever permits a person to retain the branches of his tree hanging onto neighbour’s property. This according to me is a downside in the existing law, or its interpretation, in promoting tree cover.
  5. Beautifying the cities with concrete: In Perumbavoor, my home town, there used to be mud and soil in between footpath and edge of the road. Now it is concreted to beautify the city. The  idea is great, but it is implemented in the most ugly and unscientific manner.Once the mother earth is covered up in concrete, there is no place for trees to grow, or water to percolate. After this gap was filled with concrete, Perumbavoor witnessed its first flood during last year’s rain. Some beautification it was. Better to retain the mother earth as it is.
  6.  No incentive for having trees: The building rules prevalent in the state give no concession for having trees; or penalty for not having trees in a property. This is a serious lacuna in the existing building rules of the State, which has provisions for sundry measures like rainwater harvesting and biogas plant. An owner of a property should be given due credit for growing trees, while constructing a building. Absence of such a credit has created a social norm and prudence of not having trees in commercially important properties.
  7. Penalty for not having a tree in a piece of land: I have seen many lands, with sufficient space for planting trees, but without any tree. Most malayaees like to have tiled open spaces rather than tree-shaded open spaces. This is to avoid the pain of sweeping the grounds daily. The government should overcome this lethargy of malayalees by imposing proper penalties. At lease one tree in a plot of land should be made the state policy in taxing statues.
  8. Conservation of Paddyland and Wetland Act, 2008: I not a fan of this statue, although it is promulgated on the pretext of preserving environment. According to me, this law has has been single handedly responsible for changing the climate of Kerala. It has been highly counter productive so far, and it has resulted in drastic reduction of paddy fields in Kerala. Everyone now wants to convert their paddyland, as it is made into a burden with lot of disabilities attached. This is not the correct way to preserve paddylands. The government should at least let paddy field owners cultivate other crops and trees (like rubber) to retain the minimum greenery the state has.

Today it is 36 degree Celsius in Kochi. We are witnessing unprecedented summer heat. If we don’t act now and increase the tree cover in Kerala, soon the place would be a desert, populated with hotair inflated egoistic persons.

The law is an Ass!

The more I learn and understand the law, the surer I am, that law is an Ass. The sentiments was sown in me by an obscure English play of 17th century called Revenege for Honour, narrated to me by a senior-lawyer-friend of mine. In that exotic play, staged in far-off Arabia, the eldest son of the Caliph, is accused of ravishing another man’s wife, with her consent, for which he had to be condemnedImage by his own father – Caliph, to have him castrated in public. A supporter of the elder son, dismayed at the harshness of the penalty, said “.. what, hoodwink men like sullen hawks for doing deeds of nature! I’m asham’d the law is such an Ass”.

The recent amendments to the Indian Penal Code brought in by The Criminal Law (Amendment), Act 2013, subsequent to the incident of Nirbhaya Gang Rape case in Delhi, is a paradoxical enactment, which would groom the Indian Law into an Ass. According to the new law, under the age of 18, consensual sex between teenage friends is construed as Rape, no matter what, and is punishable with minimum seven years imprisonment. Among adults, a woman can transform an incident of consensual sex, into charges of rape subsequently, by simply saying that the man had a fiduciary authority and her consent was vitiated. Amendments are also brought in the Evidence Act, which would effectively muzzle an accused of rape, and scuttle all chances of fair trial.

Considering all the hard facts about the current Indian Law, I am forced to remember the incident that happened in the novel Oliver Twist, penned by the celebrated author Charles Dickens.  In that novel, Mr. Bumble, a henpecked husband, was accosted by Mr. Brownlow for destroying the evidence relating to Oliver’s parentage, in connivance with Mrs. Bumble.

Mr. Brownlaw said “You were present on the occasion of the destruction of these trinkets, and, in deed, are the more guily of the two in the eye of law, for the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction.”
“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, “the law is an ass – a idiot. If that is the eye of the law, the law’s a bachelor, and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience – by experience.”

Correction of Basic Tax Register

It had been a contentious issue whether the Basic Tax Register (BTR) can be corrected, if the description of the property stated therein, has changed subsequently. The issue attains importance in the light of the embargo placed against conversion of paddy field (Nilam), for any other purposes, after the enactment of Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008. The Kerala Government wanted to preserve the BTR as it is, when the majority of public wanted to correct the wrong descriptions of their property, mostly wrong entries of nilam, from the revenue records.

The Single Judge of the Kerala High Court had held that the Tahsildar is the competent authority to correct the revenue records under the Kerala Land Tax Act. However, in appeal by the State, the Division Bench clarified that the authority of Tahsildar is very limited, and there is no proper procedure prescribed in law to correct the ‘description of property’ in the Basic Tax Register. Nevertheless, considering the ground realities and problems faced by the public, the Division Bench held that one can approach the High Court, by invoking its original declaratory jurisdiction, to rectify any mistakes existing in the Basic Tax Register. This was again not to the satisfaction of the government, and so it again preferred an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, after consideration of the existing laws, overruled the previous judgments of the Kerala High Court and held that there is no way one can correct the entries in the Basic Tax Register. According to the Supreme Court, if one desires to change the use of land, then he has to approach the local level monitoring committee under the 2008 Act (if the land is included in the data bank), or the Collector/RDO under the Land Utilisation Orders (if land is not included in the data bank).

It has to be said here that the judgment of the Supreme court is detached to the ground realities. It is unpractical and a ridiculous judgment. However, Supreme Court cannot be faulted for its strict interpretation of laws. The fault lies with the Kerala State Legislature for promulgating half-baked-laws, on the pretext of environmental protection.

In the current state of affairs, as desired by the Kerala Government, if the BTR states a property as Nilam, then one has to satisfy (usually with money) the RDO/Collector, for taking his land out of the strict provision of Land Utilization Orders. Same kind of satisfaction is required with additional six members of the local level monitoring commitee, if the land is included in data bank, for taking it out of Paddy and Wetland Act, 2008

The fact whether the land is actually a paddy field or not, is no more relevant. Money alone matters. 

Winter is coming..!

image

A beautiful scene from my backyard! Flowering of Vella Chamba Tree