'Earmark funds to preserve fertile lands'

I would like to stress that it is crucial to earmark an exclusive budget head towards preservation of fertile agricultural land (Indispensable Agricultural Zone-IAZ) and provide security from conversion to non agricultural purposes to serve the cause of small and marginal farmers.

Karnataka has pioneered in land institutions with great success in Land Reforms and farmers here are relatively better place as there is relative equity in land distribution.
Even the 1995 Amendment to Land Reforms Act protected the interests of farmers as it still didn’t permit absentee landlordism.

While protecting the interests of farmers has been a top priority of different governments,  of late, farmers have fear of losing their lands for being converted to roads, infrastructure and urbanisation including macro policies such as Special Economic Zones (SEZ).

It has to be understood that farmers will be severely handicapped if they lose their means of production and natural capital base.

Therefore, it is necessary to have wide consultation as well as make scientific analyses.

Current practices

With current practices hovering land acquisition, even the ‘Geographical Indication (GI)’, a form of patent granted to exclusive local agricultural products, food products, handicrafts, manufactured products, farmers cannot protect their land from the pressures of urbanisation and SEZ.

Karnataka has the largest number of GIs granted for 16 products, a reflection of the heritage of rich agricultural biodiversity and we need to take measures to maintain the heritage sites and provide benefits to farm product based industries.

Incorporate protection

Even promoting organic farming becomes weak if adequate care is not taken in this direction. Thus it is crucial to bring an amendment to Land Reforms to incorporate protection of land from such pressures for the benefit of society.

Correspondingly provisions should be made in the land acquisition regarding leverage towards denotification of lands by the Government in order to make best use of SEZ benefits.

The SEZs should be rural employment oriented.

A suggestion here is to bifurcate available land into that sharable for SEZ and agriculture, instead of displacing farmers.

Suggestions

Provision should be made in the exclusive budget by earmarking a start-up budget to identify and preserve fertile lands and identify appropriate land for SEZ.

A knowledgeable team should make a thorough study through survey and identify IAZs and then spare other lands for SEZ.

Second suggestion is to have a ‘Samagra Krishi’ or ‘Krishi Brahmanda’ (Integrated Farming System-IFS) Model demonstrated in each taluk and at least one farm based college in each district of the State.


(The author is a former Vice Chancellor, University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad)

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