Farmers in the eastern hill ranges in the district will stage a protest in front of village offices from Wednesday alleging a conspiracy to treat the land they had been cultivating as forestland.
They said a move was on to deprive them of rights over the land for which they had paid tax for nearly 60 years.
Leaders of the Malayora Karshaka Action Committee told the media on Monday that village officers had stopped collecting land tax from the farmers since 2002 on the strength of “a letter” received from the Range Officer of the Forest Department at Peruvannamuzhy.
“Since we are not allowed to pay tax and there is no government bar on village officers from receiving the tax from the farmers, we know there is a conspiracy to treat our land as forestland,” O.D. Thomas, chairman of the council, and Vincent Mannanal, member, alleged at the press conference.
Demanding resumption of tax collection, the council has decided to launch a satyagraha in front of the village office at Koorachundu on Wednesday and follow it up with similar protests at the Chakkittappara and Kanthalad village offices on December 12.
These agitations would culminate with a dharna in front of the district Collectorate on December 20. Processions highlighting the issue and seeking public support would be held across the district on December 19.
They said the farmers would become eligible for bank loans and other benefits if only they were able to pay tax.
“Many farmers are in distress. Some are even on the verge of committing suicide.”
Village officers stopped collection of land tax from nearly 200 farmer families at Koorachundu, Kanthaladu and Chakkittapara villages since 2002 in response to the letter on June 16, 2002, sent by the Forest Ranger Officer of Peruvannamuzhy.
Mr. Thomas said the farmers affected were those who purchased land from the chieftains of the Mallikassery Kovilakam and Nilambur Kovilakam in 1946-47 and had made the region rich with coconut, areca, pepper, and rubber plantations.
The farmers had title deeds, possession certificates and other documents from the Revenue Department. The records in village offices also show details of land in possession of the farmers.
Yet, they were being denied permission to remit land tax though neither the government nor the Revenue Department had issued any order stopping the collection of tax, council leaders said.
The committee said the refusal of village officers to accept tax from the farmers was against the government policy that farmers should be allowed to pay tax on even forestland if they were using it for farming since 1977.
Mr. Thomas said he would launch an indefinite fast in front of the Collectorate on December 20.
See attempt to treat land as forestland Say they have been paying land tax for 60 years
See attempt to treat land as forestland
Say they have been paying land tax
for 60 years