Farm department to suggest changes to land utilisation Bill
Thiruvananthapuram, October 31, 2012
No diversion of farmland will be allowed, says Minister
K.P. Mohanan says the present Bill will be detrimental to farm sectorFarm sector has been witnessing shrinking acreage
Minister for Agriculture K.P. Mohanan has said the department will suggest amendments to the land utilisation Bill to prevent the diversion of farmland for other purposes.
Responding to queries from reporters at a press conference here on Tuesday, he said the Agriculture Department had a difference of opinion on the provisions of the Bill.
“In its present form, the Bill would be detrimental to the farm sector, which has been witnessing shrinking acreage over the years. But there is still time. The government will take an appropriate decision after discussing all aspects of the issue. There is no question of allowing farmland to be diverted”.
The Agriculture Department, he said, has formulated a project to bring 400 hectares of fallow land under cultivation over the next year to produce an additional 1200 tonnes of paddy. The farmer would be given an assistance of Rs.25,000 per hectare while the landowner would get Rs.5,000 per hectare as lease. He said an amount of Rs.120 lakh had been earmarked for the scheme during 2012-13.
Mr. Mohanan said the department was ready to launch a slew of projects from November 1 to improve agricultural productivity and ensure better returns for farmers through technology inputs and promotion of entrepreneurship.
The month-long programme was timed to coincide with Kerala Formation Day celebrations. As many as 17 projects including five in the animal husbandry sector would be launched during the period.
The Minister said an Agriculture Tribunal would be set up to resolve legal issues involving production, service, and marketing of agricultural products. The tribunal would be headed by a judicial officer not less than a district judge. He said the mechanism was aimed at ensuring speedy justice for farmers who often ended up with seeds, fertilizers, farm equipment, pesticides, and organic manure of inferior quality.
Labour forces would be created in all panchayats to provide trained workers for climbing coconut trees, applying pesticide, and operating farm machinery. The labourers would be controlled by a committee headed by the panchayat president. Farmers’ groups would also be established to share traditional knowledge on farming practices. Agricultural experts, researchers, people’s representatives, students, women, and officials would be enlisted to support the initiative.
The Minister said the government had initiated steps to formulate an agricultural policy. “A committee chaired by former MLA K. Krishnankutty has been set up to draft the policy. The committee is holding discussions with farmers, farm workers, and elected representatives. The document will be finalised to protect the interests of all stakeholders”. Hi-tech farming methods would be promoted throughout the State by setting up greenhouse demonstration units and introducing precision farming methods in 1,000 hectares.
Mr. Mohanan said 19 touch-screen kiosks would be established at different locations for farmers to access information on crops and cropping practices, processing, crop protection, and availability of seeds and planting materials.
Krishi Bhavans would tie up with the Horticorp, Vegetable and Fruit Promotion Council Kerala, Kerafed, Marketfed, and Kudumbasree Mission to procure crops apart from paddy and coconut. Another project was to restore 1,000 ponds and tanks in the State. The Rs.1,000-crore project would be implemented over a period of three years. The ponds would be deepened and provided with sidewalls and metal fencing. They would be used for rearing fish. In the animal husbandry sector, the projects include adoption of 1,00,000 hybrid calves, veterinary services at the farmer’s doorstep, insurance for cows, and assistance to set up homestead poultry farms.