Paddy Field

No water for Ducks – Practically and Legally!

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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.

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.