Select panel moots changes

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Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran promises suitable amendments.
Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran promises suitable amendments.

Special Correspondent

Assembly begins debate on paddy land conservation Bill

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Assembly began a marathon discussion on the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Bill on Thursday afternoon.

The Opposition has recorded strong dissent over the provisions of the Bill, while noting that it did not question the bona fides of the government in introducing the Bill.

The Select Committee had reported the Bill with major changes, including a provision to pay bonus to paddy cultivators for undertaking cultivation. This bonus will be fixed in relation to production costs and income.

A local committee will oversee the enforcement of the provisions of the Bill, which seeks to ban filling up of paddy fields and wetlands.

The Select Committee has also incorporated the provision that paddy fields should be converted for public purposes only if alternate land was not available. The government should be satisfied on the matter based on the reports of the local committee and a State-level committee.

The Opposition members of the Select Committee said in their dissent notes that they opposed the scheme and dictate of the Bill. “The cultivator should have the freedom to plunge into innovation and choose suitable crops for cultivation. In the absence of such a freedom, he would be fall into debt.”

Objecting to introduction of the Bill in the House, Kerala Congress leader K.M. Mani said that the provision to punish farmers for conversion of paddy fields with retrospective effect was against Constitutional provisions. Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran admitted the mistake and said that suitable amendments would be brought to remove the retrospective effect for punitory provisions.

The debate on the Bill is likely to stretch well past midnight with about 800 amendments listed for consideration.

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