Local gangs engaged in carting off agricultural produce are giving sleepless nights to several rural farmers in Kozhikode district. Those who recently lost their harvested food crops and cash crops allege that a few local drivers and women labourers are suspected to be part of the thefts, which have been reported to the police.
The recent price hike of some of the agricultural produce may have led to the rise in the number of thefts. Naripetta, Valayam, Vanimel and Nadapuram areas have witnessed the highest number of such incidents in which the farmers suffered huge losses.
Harvested coconuts, rubber sheets, arecanut, pepper and banana are the frequently stolen items. Both harvested and ripe crops have been missing from the fields. Only large scale farmers have filed complaints, while many small scale farmers are yet to report such incidents to the police.
“The worst affected are those who manage farms away from their houses. By the time the landowner reaches the spot for harvest, the crops would have been carted off. The majority are not in a situation to appoint guards or undertake other surveillance measures,” said N.V. Francis, a farmer from Valayam. He said local farmers had convened several rounds of meetings to find a solution.
A group of farmers who recently called a convention at Vanimel said they were considering an awareness campaign to encourage the public to communicate details of suspected persons with the police.
In Vilangad panchayat, a farmers’ protection committee was formed to take up the issue and track the gangs with the support of the police.
Representatives of some of the local action committees said the response of the police towards the issue was not encouraging. “We even caught a robber red-handed from the area with about 80 kg of stolen arecanut. The continuing negligence in the area is encouraging more gangs to flourish,” they said.
Meanwhile, police officers from the Nadapuram sub division said the farmers’ complaints had been taken up seriously. They said plainclothesmen had been deployed in suspected areas and night patrolling had been intensified.