Allege bias in labelling 123 villages as ecologically fragile

Farmers’ organisations led by the Indian Farmers’ Movement (Infam) have decided to stage dharnas and take out protest marches on November 1 in Kozhikode and Malappuram districts to protest against the recommendations of the Kasturirangan and Madhav Gadgil panel reports which they believe are a threat to their livelihood and are aimed at forcing farmers in the Western Ghats regions to abandon their land.

Leaders of the joint action council formed by these organisations also alleged at a press conference here on Wednesday, that there was clear discrimination in labelling 123 villages as ecologically fragile land where strict controls on farming and building activities have been recommended.

As example they pointed out that ecologically sensitive areas in and around Wagamon and Silent Valley had been exempted from this category.

Population density

They also pointed out that the Kasturirangan report had labelled as ecologically fragile land 123 villages where density of population was as high as 250 though the reports stated that places having population density above 100 should not be treated as ecologically fragile land.

The inclusion of rubber, tea, coffee, pepper, cashew, cardamom, arecanut and coconut on the list of commercial crops that should not be allowed in protected parts of Western Ghats would ruin the State’s economy as also the farmers, they said and added it had been pointed out by Coffee Board, Spices Boards, and many agricultural scientists.

The farmers action council also questioned the validity of the Kasturirangan recommendation that chemical fertilizers and pesticides should not be allowed and said many scientists were of the view it was not advisable to abandon their use. The farmers’ action council alleged that the ultimate aim of the Kasturirangan and Gadgil panel reports was eviction of farmers from hill ranges.

The ban on cash crops recommended in these reports and attacks from wild animals would force farmers to leave the land in hill ranges which they had been cultivating for decades and on which they had clear ownership rights, the council said.