PANJIM: Stating that agriculture is providing means of livelihood and ensures food security, the farmers on Saturday demanded that the proposed Agriculture Policy for Goa should be farmer-centric and warned that they will not hesitate to come on the streets if the government tries to deviate from it.
Reacting to letters written by Agriculture Minister Ravi Naik to all village panchayats asking them to take up issues regarding the new Agriculture Policy in the special gram sabhas on October 2, Goa Kul Mundkar Sangarsh Samiti convenor Dipesh Naik demanded community farming and to take the existing agriculture production to the level were almost every inch of land was used for farming. He was of the opinion that community farming will take the end product to the customer rather than taking it to corporates.
Under community farming, a lot of facilities can be provided to the farmers such as tractor, harvester, and other allied machinery.
Naik further demanded that all the mining auctioned blocks in the State encompassing agricultural land must exclude paddy fields and other agricultural areas.
Federation of Rainbow Warriors general secretary Abhijit Prabhudesai said that the name of the Agriculture Policy should be corrected as Goa State Policy for Farmers or a similar name that reflects the re-orientation of the focus of the policy to farmers and their wellbeing.
He said that farmers should be recognised as defenders of agriculture and also farmers’ role as the protectors of the environment needs to be recognised and rewarded, taking into account all the aspects of environment.
Prabhudesai demanded that no agriculture lands especially plateaus, slopes, low-lying lands and paddy fields be allowed to be converted and that all Comunidade lands be recognised as village common lands and be fully protected from any alienation or change in use. The decision making powers should be given back to local residents especially the oppressed classes of indigenous farmers and as Gauncars of Comunidades, he said.
Prabhudesai said that all tenancy cases should be resolved speedily based on ground reality, and no other provisions be allowed to prevent the eradication of the centuries old socio-economic injustice. All the rights of indigenous farmers to cultivation, grazing, fishing and collection of forest produce should be recognised and protected.
All fallow paddy fields should be brought back into cultivation within a fixed time-frame by resolving issues such as irrigation, pollution, encroachment, access, etc, he said.
Shree Bodgeshwar Shetkari Sangh president Sanjay Barde said that all these years farmers have been fighting to protect their fields.
He alleged that there are several incidents where access to paddy fields have been blocked making it difficult for farmers to enter their fields to cultivate them.
Stating that the farmers are often at the mercy of vagaries of nature, Barde said, “To cultivate one hectare of paddy field farmer is spending almost Rs 70,000 and if the crop is destroyed then he is paid a compensation of Rs 10,000. The government should ensure that the Agriculture Policy is people-centric, failing which the farmers would be forced to come on the streets.
Pundalik Kinlekar, a farmer from Mapusa said, “Farmers are suffering and there is nobody to hear their plight. Due to blocking of access farmers cannot even take tractors in the fields for cultivation. The purpose of the Agriculture Policy would be defeated if it is not farmer-centric.”