CORRALLED BYTHE STATE
Jewellers oppose blanket ban on coral trade though law allows sale of certain forms
Jagannath R., 60, a builder in Bangalore, went to his family jeweller on Richmond Road in the last week of April prior to his son’s wedding. He was out shopping for the mangalsutra for his soon- to- be daughter- in- law. Designs he got, however he ran into a wall.
“I could not get the all- important coral for the mangalsutra, which has religious and emotional significance in Hindu weddings. Our jeweller told me that coral trade is banned in Bangalore, though I can source it from anywhere else in the country. What kind of law is this?’’ asks a furious Jagannath.
Jagannath is not alone. Anyone who wants to buy coral in Karnataka has to go at least till Hosur on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border. The reason: Police in Bangalore decided to impose and implement a ban on coral trade in November 2011, citing a clause in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which is not in vogue elsewhere in the country.
Schedule I Part IV- A of the Act lists Gorganians or sea fans ( names for coral) under the protected category. After seeking a legal opinion from the director of prosecutions in the state government, H. R. Renuka, the forest cell of the Karnataka Police raided shops of jewellers and wholesalers in Bangalore and imposed the ban. Said the official letter from Renuka, “The Wildlife Protection Act, 2003, prohibits trade in corallium rubrum or sea fans in any form.’’
Jewellers’ associations are now up in arms and have complained to the Gems and Jewellery Trade Council of India. “All forms of coral are not protected or banned under Schedule I of the Wildlife Act. The coral we are trading in is imported from Japan and Italy, and is legally brought in as per international Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ( CITES) regulations. We have custom clearance and the Central Government has also reduced import duty on these from 5 per cent in 2008 to zero to encourage trade. What does the Karnataka Police mean by seizing our coral and foisting cases on us?’’ asks Vivek Chand, secretary of the Bangalore Jewellers’ Association.
After a prominent jeweller’s shop was raided and he was imprisoned in late 2011, the association sought a clarification from the Union environment ministry on the issue. On January 24, Deputy Inspector General ( Wildlife) Prakriti Srivastava sent a letter stating that the corallium rubrum coral is not listed either in the schedules of the
THE JEWELLERS’ ASSOCIATIONS ARE PLANNING TO TAKE THE LEGAL ROUTE AGAINST THE BAN, STATING THE WILDLIFE ACT IS BEING MISINTERPRETED.
Wildlife Act, or in the CITES appendices. “As such, the trade of such species may be regulated accordingly, subject to the provisions of the foreign trade policy,’’ the letter stated clearly.
The jewellers’ associations are now planning to take the legal route against the ban imposed by the police, saying that the Wildlife Act is being misinterpreted by them. “All this is an effort to harass us, as jewellers are soft targets. Our margins are being affected, while jewellers across the country are benefiting from the ban here,’’ says Paramasivaiah P., general secretary of the Karnataka Diamonds and Gems Merchants Association.
CORALS ATAJEWELLERYSTORE; ( ABOVE) ASTORE IN BANGALORE