We often come across cases where people illegally try to fill wetlands or cut trees, harm the environment and destroy agriculture. With such cases increasing rapidly, many committees and societies that fight to restore agriculture and save wetlands have also come up over the years. These efforts, to a certain extent, have been able to achieve their aim with the government formulating various policies to protect wetlands and promote agriculture.
However, things are completely different and in fact very complicated for Thomas Vymeli, a retired bank officer, who decided to start farming on his 2-acre barren plot in Cheranaloor after a period of 25 years. Thomas, who ventured into integrated farming on his land after consulting with the agricultural officer and according to the suggestion of the scientists at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, is now under extreme distress.
Despite submitting an application eight months ago, he has not been given the permission letter or the necessary certificates required from Krishi Bhavan to avail power supply in his farm. This in turn has affected him in a critically and is preventing him from implementing his project in a full-fledged manner as he cannot water his vegetables and other plants.
According to Thomas, “I planned to start farming on my land after being encouraged by the agricultural officer. A scientist at the centre had also prepared a project plan for me and I started doing everything according to it. As per the project, I had to dig trenches 5-6 ft deep in the land to start fish farming. The marsh could in turn be used to create the differentiation in the plot so that various areas could be utilised for vegetable farming. But it is really unfortunate that I had to face problems from first step onwards. A group of people who claim to be the saviours of wetland objected saying I am doing an illegal activity and that I am not supposed to do fish farming and that I could only do paddy farming. They also demanded money in return of their permission. But I said that I would never do that. Things started getting worse from then on.”
Thomas was denied sanctions and he had to approach the concerned authorities a number of times begging for the same, which he was eligible for. These authorities, who, according to him, had come from the gram panchayat are working in favour of some Congress politicians who do not want Thomas to go ahead with the farming. He says these politicians are working in favour of two families who live at the border areas of his plot and have trespassed in his area. If Thomas starts farming, these people will have to give away the land that belongs to him, which is not acceptable to them.
He further had to deal with problems like theft and had to approach the police station to file a complaint seeking appropriate action against people who were getting into his farm and stealing vegetables, tapioca, fish, and other harvests. He is also unable to install a camera to track the thefts going on in his property as there is no power supply on the farm. The authorities also opposed him when he tried to build a surveillance shed so that he could guard his farm during night time in order to find the people behind these thefts.
The Kochi Post tried to contact Cheranaloor Gram Panchayat vice-president Raju C.K. to get his comments on the issue. Though he was reluctant to comment, Mr. Raju said that the sanction for farming was given without proper verification of the plot and that was the reason why the authorities were asking Thomas to stop farming.
Thomas is of the opinion that the authorities are forcing him to fill in the 10 cents of land to build a house or a building because it is more profitable to the authorities rather than allowing a person to start fish farming.
As this an issue that seems to be caused by the Congress party, the Opposition is supporting Thomas in his protest. Thomas is hopeful that he would not get sandwiched in between the political rivalry and will be able to carry forward his farming.
Thomas said that the ruling party has extended a helping hand to him and he might visit MP Rajeev seeking his help in the issue. However, the MP could not make it to the scheduled meeting.