I have written a lot about Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008, suffering continuous amendments since its inception. Here is the scan copy of the latest amendment to the Act, which unsettles the procedure for correction of databank and conversion of paddy lands.
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. Ducks in Kerala 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 dry land, then ducks will not get water. Other alternatives are not commercially viable. So in short, there is no water for ducks, practically and legally, in Kerala.
I can’t really remember all those methods that were formulated to correct the data bank under the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008. There have been numerous. All those procedures were either replaced or repealed, before any application could reach a logical conclusion.
If I remember correctly, first it was the Thasildar under the Kerala Land Tax Act who was empowered to correct the Basic Tax Register (and in course the data bank), if it was found that the land in reality is not a Paddy Land. Later, his power was curtailed, and the Kerala High Court assumed this role in its original jurisdiction. But when number of cases that are filed got out of control, the Kerala High Court decided to relegate the function to the Local Level Monitoring Committee or the Revenue Divisional Officer, depending on the entry in the data bank. Thereafter, in the year 2015, the UDF Government brought in the controversial Section 3A for correction of data bank by the District Collector. But again, this section was repealed after the Kerala High Court warned of it being struck down as unconstitutional.
Sometime in the year 2016, somebody informed the Kerala High Court that there is a Center for Remote Sensing at Thiruvananthapuaram, which has taken satellite pictures of all of Kerala, and it could reveal how the land was lying as on the year 2008. So now, the Kerala High Court has again assumed the responsibility of correcting the data bank, after calling for report from this “Kerala State Remote Sensing and Environment Centre, Thiruvananthpuaram” through the Agricultural Officer, who is the convener of the Local Level Monitoring Committee. This is the procedure in currently in vogue for correcting the data bank, but now it is learned that a new notification has come into effect.
I haven’t seen the official notification, but the newspaper report is enclosed here under for reference. According to that report, one has to go directly to the Local Level Monitoring Committee, for correction of mistakes in the data bank, within 90days from 1st June 2017. The time limit of 90days is prescribed only for the Kerala High Court to strike it down.
For me, one thing is very clear. The Kerala Conservation of Paddy land and Wetland Act, 2008, is an unruly gal, wandering here and there without any resolve, and yet to enter her teenage. When she is a teenager, I bet, all including the Kerala Government, Environmental Activists and Kerala High Court would vie to tame her, and get her attention, with their own pieces of advice.
So, according to me, it is better to wait and watch, and see how this girl grows up into a woman, instead of rushing in for her immediate attention.
PS: The amendment GO (P) No. 34/2017/Revenue dated 30/5/2017 (SRO 301/2017) is embedded hereunder