Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Land acqusition and food security

The Telegraph


Land acqusition going on at an alarming rate, food security at stake

Land trend alarming: Minister

Calcutta, July 25: Around 1.2 lakh acres of farmland have been converted for industrial use in the past five years, the land minister told the Assembly today and described it as an “alarming trend’’.
Tabling the land and land reforms budget, Abdur Rezzak Mollah said: “Over the past five years, the amount of farmland that got converted for industrial use is about 1.2 lakh acres. That is something alarming and, if this trend continues, we are going to face serious problems in the future.”
The minister iterated his concern for food security.
The concern has become all the more serious in the CPM after the setbacks the party had to suffer in the panchayat polls in May, to a large extent because of farmland acquisition or the threat of it.
However, while voicing his concern over a possible food shortage in the future, Mollah also stressed “the need for industry in our state’’.
Acquisition notices have been issued for the takeover of about 25,000 acres in West Midnapore, East Midnapore, Burdwan and Purulia for steel plants to be set up by 10 industry groups.
“Objections are now being heard and the process (of acquisition) is on in all four districts,” the minister said.

The Statesman


Food for thought

KOLKATA, July 27: Amidst widespread fears that food security in the state would come under threat owing to the LF government's industrialisation policy, a report prepared by the state land and land reforms department reveals that in fact only 9,000 acres of farm land in the state has been converted for setting up of industries over the last two years.
Of far more concern, in the context of food security, is the fact that some 15 lakh acres of farm land remain uncultivated in the state every year mainly due to the financial constraints of marginal farmers and bargadars, as per the report.
This apart, against just 9,000 acres of farm land that had been converted for setting up industries, the report reveals that a total of 1.20 lakh acres of farm land has been converted for non-agricultural use in the state, most of the conversion being done by the land-owners themselves for residential purposes. The local panchayats are also giving permission in this regard rampantly.
Officials of the land and land reforms department said though several questions have been raised about the industrialisation policy through acquisition of farm land, these other areas of concern are being overlooked.
"For example, about 15 lakh acres of farm land remain uncultivated in the state every year. The main reason behind this is financial constraint of the marginal farmers or bargadars. The banks also don't show keen interest in disbursing loans to bargadars or marginal farmers," said an official.
"This apart, it is not possible to carry out cultivation in a portion of farm land owing to natural disasters like floods. If steps are not initiated to arrest these issues, it could be a major problem for the state in future in terms of food security,” the official added.
Highlighting the rapid conversion of farm land for non-agricultural use as another cause of concern, the official pointed out: "The state has a total of 1,45,80,000 acres of farm land and if conversion of agricultural land continues at this rate, there would be a problem in future. And setting up of industries won't be the major reason behind this because only 9,000 acres of farm land has to converted for industrialisation so far.”