Agriculture Minister Th Biswajit on Wednesday appealed to the general public to stop constructions of structures in paddy fields and warned of legal action against violators of the Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetlands Act, 2014. He also spoke about steps towards improving the socio-economy and doubling the income of the farmers as main objectives while stressing the need to save and preserve paddy lands. It was perfectly in line with the Chief Minister’s effort to save paddy fields.
On the express orders of the Chief Minister state Revenue officials had been conducting a survey of all agricultural lands and the Manipur Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetlands Act, 2014 has been invoked in the present survey.
We all know that revenue officials has been circumventing the law time and again, even though there were restrictions earlier also on conversion of agricultural land as homestead land or for non-agricultural activities.
No doubt, the state had been losing agricultural land every year. Vast areas of agricultural land have been reclaimed and converted into service centres for various auto-dealers, brick-kilns, stone crusher units and many other industrial complexes besides a host of other activities not of agriculture.
The stretches from Mantripukhri to Koirengei on Imphal-Dimapur road, Takyel to New Keithelmanbi on Imphal-Jiribam road and Ghari to Malom on the Airport road are all lost to agriculture.
One agrees that due action must be taken against those responsible for conversion of agricultural land for non-agriculture purposes like industrial or commercial activities. But, there is a need to properly define the terms ‘agricultural purpose’ and ‘non-agriculture purpose’ before resorting to penal action or any other action by revenue authorities.
Yes, the very nomenclature of the Act and its provisions somehow seems to restrict any other agricultural activity other than paddy.
As we understand, agricultural land is typically land devoted to agriculture, the systematic and controlled rearing of livestock and production of crops to produce food for humans. The same spirit is also reflected in the preamble of the Act which says, ‘An Act to conserve the paddy land and wetland and to restrict the conversion or reclamation thereof in order to promote growth in the agricultural sector in the State of Manipur.’
As we understand, the term ‘agriculture sector’ comprises establishments primarily engaged in growing crops, raising animals, and harvesting fish.
Such agricultural activities like fish and poultry farms including hatcheries and production of feed besides duck farms and piggeries are being taken up in what we call agricultural land. So we would like to once again reiterate that restricting conservation of agricultural land only for paddy is against the spirit of promoting growth in agriculture sector.
Most important, the future of agriculture has become bleaker in the absence of a sound state agriculture policy coupled with the new challenges brought forth by the impact of climate change.
Farmers are already talking about a bad harvest this year in several areas and the reasons given are lack of adequate rainfall in time, unprecedented rise in temperature and of course the chaos in distribution of fertilisers.
This pattern has been going on for the last few years and paddy cultivation is becoming a losing pursuit on account of high cost of production and no remunerative price.
The present trend of declining profitability together with higher cost of new technology and a degree of uncertainty, in both price and productivity, meant that farmers had to bear tremendous risks in agriculture.
High yield rate, high cost of production and low profitability is the present scenario of agricultural enterprise in the state. So, the more pressing issue which demands everyone’s attention is of evolving a sound agricultural policy by taking all these concerns into consideration.
Yes, we have to save paddy land. But, we have to save agriculture also, which is the mainstay of our economy. Remembering the pre-merger days when we had food surplus in the state should light the way towards a comprehensive policy on agriculture.