Farmers say government has done little to allay concerns

Rustic adages and narrations by homemakers of their everyday anxiety over the K. Kasturirangan committee recommendations on Western Ghats’ conservation marked the first day of the indefinite protest launched by settler farmers of Thiruvambadi panchayat on Tuesday.

Thiruvambadi is one of the nine high-range villages in the district identified as ecologically sensitive area (ESA) by the Kasturirangan panel.

The other panchayats are Kodenchery, Thamarassery, Chakittappara, Kattipara, Koorachundu, Kavilumpara and Naripetta.

Protesters, under the banner of the Western Ghats People Protection Committee, gathered outside the main gate of the District Collectorate on Tuesday and spoke about the uncertainty caused by the Madhav Gadgil-Kasturirangan reports to their livelihoods.

Some of them took the opportunity to narrate their stories of migration to the high ranges, their humble beginnings and years of toil to tame the soil. But one and all ended their narratives by describing the political assurances given to them as “assurances given by a fox to chickens.”

“All we are asking for is the freedom to grow some tapioca, elephant yam and colocasia for our sustenance. Crops have failed. Agriculture is in crisis. This is our circumstance,” Lucy Mani, a panchayat member, said.

Farmers blamed “bureaucrats” for writing off the Western Ghats — a World Heritage Site and biodiversity hotspot — without even giving a thought to the numerous farmers who lived off it.

“What is the democracy in such practices? Their empty assurances to protect us have forced us to launch this third phase of protests,” Joikutty Lukos, a farmer, said.

“State government breathlessly gives us assurances. The Chief Minister says there is no need to worry. But are they doing anything to give us solace,” he asked.

Speakers at the protest criticised the State government for its “poor show” at the National Green Tribunal in representing the concerns of the settler-farmers and its inaction over the Oommen V. Oommen and panchayat-level reports meant to identify and rework the parameters set by the Kasturirangan report for the 123 ESA villages in the State.

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