Kerala Farmers Protest in Delhi
A LARGE contingent of activists of Kerala Karshaka Sangham, the affiliated unit of the All India Kisan Sabha marched towards Parliament Street, New Delhi and sat in a day-long dharna on July 26, 2022, to bring a very sensitive and dangerous issue of human-animal conflict in the state of Kerala to the attention of the union government.
Nearly 150 farmers and tribals from Kerala joined the dharna. P Krishnaprasad, finance secretary, AIKS gave the welcome address, while Valsan Panoli, secretary of the Kerala Karshaka Sangham chaired the meeting. Hannan Mollah, general secretary of AIKS inaugurated, while Ashok Dhawale, Vijoo Krishnan, and Rajya Sabha MPs Elamaram Kareem and V Sivadasan addressed the gathering. Various farmers also shared their tragic experiences of wild attacks.
Forest covers 24.6 per cent of the country's total land area. Kerala's forest land area is 29.1 per cent. Kerala has a total of 54.70 per cent standing trees in non-forest land. It is the farmers here who make Kerala green by planting fruit trees and horticultural crops on non-forest land. Society needs to recognise the activities that farmers have been doing in the fields of environmental restoration and food production.
More than 30 lakh people living in around 200 panchayats of Kerala are in a dire situation due to continuous wild animal attacks. Around 66 people were killed this year itself, 1,310 people were killed during the last 10 years out of which 270 died in the Palakkad district. More than 4,000 people were seriously injured. According to the records of the forest department, more than 39,000 farmers have suffered crop damage. Many cases of unreported destruction of crops by wild animals are there hence the real loss cannot be estimated. Animals like elephants, tigers, wild boars, monkeys, mountain squirrels, deers and peacocks enter the farms throughout day and night and destroy everything cultivated like bananas, coconuts, areca nuts, paddy, tuber crops like tapioca, vegetables etc. Compensation for crop damage is not commensurate with the damage.
MASSIVE LOSS TO FARMERS
The data illustrates how the farmers face risks in their lives while working in their own fields due to the menace of wild animal attacks. Small, medium marginal farmers and tens of thousands of workers who were living and farming for a long time in this area were forced to depend on other sectors for their livelihood. Still the families including the children and women and elderly are living under psychological trauma and stress.
It is a matter of grave concern that the forest cover has been clear felled as a policy of the successive union governments since independence in order to promote commercial wood production by planting Eucalyptus, Manchium, Silver Oak, Teak etc., thus imitating the British colonial policies that looted the natural resources including forest. This policy has destroyed the natural flora and fauna to an irreparable extent. The large share of even reserved forest areas is crammed with such commercial tree plantations under which no green grass and water bodies can subsist for the animals and wildlife. Hence the animals are forced to encroach on cultivated land in search of fodder and water. This is the background of the large-scale loss of life, crops and property due to the wildlife attack. Thus the crisis originated as a result of the wrong policies of forest management by the successive union governments.
FIND A PERMANENT SOLUTION
The Kisan Sabha has requested the union government to find a permanent solution to this crisis in the following ways:
· Clear fell the artificial commercial wood plantations in the forest area phase by phase within a stipulated but reasonable period and promote natural growth so that fodder and water resources will be developed within the forest for the wildlife.
· Take immediate measures to separate the forest land and the revenue land through the construction of a trench in the forest side and put up a four-meter high wire mesh on the revenue land side by adding suitable clauses in the rule of the MNREGS. This plan should be completed by giving priority to those regions where the protracted wildlife menace does exist. Wherever trench is not suitable due to the specificities of the terrain and topography, build stone or concrete walls to prevent trespassing wildlife.
Article 21 of the Constitution stipulates that citizens have the right to live with dignity and have a means of livelihood. Various court orders have stipulated that it is the responsibility of the government to protect life, property including land and crops from wild animals. However, various orders issued by the union ministry of forests and environment at various times on issues such as Ecologically Sensitive Zone (ESA), Parambikulam Tiger Sanctuary, Silent Valley, Buffer Zones and reports by Gadgil and Kasturi Rangan committees also cause a threat to the livelihood of the peasants and workers and forest dwellers and tribal people living in the regions near forest borders.
DELEGATION MET UNION MINISTER
A delegation comprising Ashok Dhawale, P Krishnaprasad, and Valsan Panoli met the minister of forest and environment on July 26, 2022, at his office in the parliament house along with members of Rajya Sabha, V Sivadasan and John Brittas.
The minister assured to direct the forest department to control human-animal conflict and protect human life and crop by segregating forest and human habitats.
The minister also assured to consider the demand for clear felling of the artificial commercial wood plantations in the forest area to promote natural growth to ensure fodder and water for wildlife within the forest. If executed in its letter and spirit, this measure will help to balance carbon neutrality, improve the environment and arrest adverse climate changes to a certain extent.
The other demands include providing sufficient compensation of Rs 50 lakh to dependents of those killed and Rs 10 lakh to those seriously injured in wild animal attacks, ensuring timely survey and disbursement of adequate compensation by revising the present rates for crop damage due to wildlife menace and stop the encroachment of forest department in human settlements.
The Kisan Sabha also demanded timely revision of various Forest Acts in India including the Indian Forest Act 1927, The Wildlife Protection Act 1972, The Forest Conservation Act 1980 and the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers Act 2006 with due clauses for - the protection of human life, property and livelihood from wildlife attack as well as the protection and preservation of wildlife.