We all know the significance of the date and the man who was born on October 2. But when October 2nd dawns upon Goa on Monday, Goans will be gathering to revive and get back a Goa that once lived upto Mahatma Gandhi’s most poignant observation “India lives in its villages.”
Special Gram Sabhas that will held on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti will be turned into events where the people in the villages will demand and ask for the basic rights of handing over their villages back to the people, giving them control over their farms, their fields, their crops and water bodies.
Goa doesn’t need outside protectors or the government or politicians to save their farmlands, their crops and agriculture. They just need their communities.
A land that has its traditional source of life and living from farming, fishing and other activities around bunds, sluice gates, lakes and rivers, doesn’t need the collector or the land department to guide its destiny. Goan villages have been community-centric where villagers helped in each other’s farms from preparing the fields to sowing and harvesting.
The village water bodies, and lakes like the Bondvol Lake in St Cruz, for instance were nurtured to give the village the third crop of the season.
Farming was a way of life in Goa, and it was all about ‘development’
The government is talking of contract farming and giving farming to external private hands, but farming was a community developmental activity all throughout. It made the village self-sufficient, made good use of resources, and contributed to the economic self-sufficiency of the village. The push towards contract farming is an excuse to crush community farming.
Thus, farming is not an enemy of development. It is development’s main pillar. But who will tell the government this? The people. And that is what the people of Goa are going to emphasize on October 2.
‘Development’ is not building farm-houses built on agricultural land
The Goa Restrictions and Transfer of Agricultural Land Act 2023 supposedly protects agricultural land but actually makes it easy for agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes to be allotted giving the Collector to grant permission to anyone “who intends” to take up farming or is “capable of cultivating the land personally”. The question is how does the Collector know that the person genuinely intends to take up farming and also capable of doing so? This is only to allow the farmhouse brigade to capture Goan farms.
Communities have been kept out of farming, this helps divert attention to caste and religion
There is another fallout of village life and farm life going out of the community system. Well-knit village communities are disintegrating and have the potential of getting divided and swayed along caste and community lines. Bringing back community life alone can prevent this.
In a study conducted in 2014, in Goa, 1.4 lakh hectares were cultivable out of about 3.6 lakh hectares. But only 31,000 hectares was cultivated. It is shrinking further. Moreover, Goa is not self-sufficient in food at all. Our milk and fruit come from Karnataka. Very soon our fish will, since big trawlers are taking our fish away anyway.
Comunidades have been made defunct; therefore they no longer have the funds to keep farming and agricultural activity running. The MLAs and MPs then take over. Thus the basic nature of rural administration, which was collective, has collapsed. Frustrated young people have left Goa, their parents became too old to farm and migrant labour entered. This made farming an even more expensive affair forcing many to just give up.
It isn’t very surprising that an agricultural policy has not been framed. Because that would formalise people’s control over State control. The government doesn’t want that
For a decade, as Goa was losing farmlands and its way of life and land and concrete started taking over farms, it was felt that Goa needed an Agriculture Policy. But this feeling was never translated into action. On August 14 this year the intent to call for suggestions towards this policy was expressed but the time given-up to September 16, a mere 32 days, made it clear that this was just lip service. After village groups and NGOs protested it was extended till September 16 which too has come and gone. But now the people have realised that unless they play a big part in shaping the Agriculture Policy, Goa’s future will go out of people’s hands.
People want decentralisation, and they don’t want politicians controlling them
What people want is simple and straightforward. Allow village committees to be in charge of all aspects of village life from agriculture, fishing, and water management and not have different State departments looking into micro village issues individually. This is not how a village works. They also want issues of Agriculture to be led by the Zonal Agricultural Office and not by the MP or MLA.
On October 2, Goa prays that the sons and daughters of her soil will begin the fight to get back what is theirs, their land and their control.