25 Nov 2022  |   07:26am IST

We have waited 15 yrs, put our names back on our farms, is the cry of Aquem-Baixo farmers

Dispossessed of their lands 15 yrs ago, for a multi-purpose transportation centre, Aquem-Baixo farmers still farm the land which is not theirs
We have waited 15 yrs, put our names back on our farms, is the cry of Aquem-Baixo farmers


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MARGAO: Around 28,300 square metres of land was acquired more than 15 years ago by the State government for a multi-purpose transportation centre.

The land belonged to 40 to 50 agricultural families in Aquem-Baixo. Fifteen years later there is no transportation centre, of the Goa State Urban Development Agency (GSUDA). Nor has the land been reverted to the farmers.

For these 40-50 families based in Aquem-Baixo village, they are fully dependent on the agricultural produce from their fields at the Rawanfond ward, which they have been cultivating for generations now.

The farmers claim that when the land was acquired by GSUDA they were not informed and hence were not in a position then to object to the same.  

The SGDPA officials stated that they had sent their report to their higher-ups for consideration.

The farmers conveyed to the SGPDA officials that they want the zone to be retained as a green zone.

Now here’s the supreme irony. The farmers have gone back to cultivating the land and getting good produce but the land no longer belongs to them. It’s like going and living in what was once your home which no longer belongs to you.

The irony doesn’t end there. Not only have they supplied vegetables to government-supported horticulture gaddas, their efforts to cultivate black rice has been praised by officials of the State Agriculture Department even as the land is no longer theirs. Claudius Dias is the leader of the farmer group. The experienced farmer also opined that from a legal point of view, only projects for which the land was acquired for can be taken up there and that given how much time has crossed since the land was acquired; the project would have lapsed by now.

Dias also said they are not ready to accept any compensation for the land as they will stick to their demand for the land to be returned to them.

They pointed out that the government has been making repeated claims of its efforts to boost agriculture to reduce its dependency on neighbouring States for agricultural produce.

If they are denied access to these lands or are stopped from carrying out agricultural activities, it will affect them greatly. For them, it is a way of life where they feed their families directly from the crops they grow.

“We don’t want to criticise the government. We are requesting that the government accept our plea for reverting this ancestral agricultural land back to us so that we can continue our agricultural activity,” said Claudius Dias, the leader of the farmer group.

He expressed happiness that they recently had a bumper harvest after years, which he hopes will strengthen their case and he adds that in December they will cultivate vegetable crops.

“We also don’t want any commercial project or concrete work to come here as the fertile land has to be protected. Moreover, there are laws that do not allow a sizeable ST population to be displaced like this,” Claudius added.

He lamented that if the farmer groups are forced to shift, life will be a disaster for them as they will lose their means of income and nutrition.

“We have in the past briefed the former Chief Ministers like (late) Manohar Parrikar, Laxmikant Parsekar about our problems. We plan to raise it with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant too,” he added.

Incidentally, there were some other proposals since then such as the rehabilitation of gadda owners who were displaced from the Rawanfond junction. The Margao municipality also wanted to dump dry and plastic waste on these grounds.

However, the farmers have remained steadfast in their opposition and blocked these plans. Barbed wires have been placed around the fields but there are two gates through which the famers can enter and so far they have been allowed to work in the fields.

Recently, the South Goa District Planning and Development Authority’s (SGPDA) sub-committee visited the fields to look into the objections raised by the farmers against the proposed change of zone in Margao 2031 Outline Development Plan (ODP).


Idhar Udhar