Debt-ridden farmers lease out own paddy fields
By A Satish | ENS | Published: 18th February 2013 08:07 AM |
Debt-ridden paddy farmers in the district, mostly from the panchayats bordering Tamil Nadu, facing a severe drought situation, have found an easy way to clear their dues.
The farmers are leasing out their paddy fields to brick kiln contractors, a move that could prove suicidal in the long term and push them into further penury.
A visit to the Seethargundu, Thekkinchira, Chathapara, Mathur, Cheelakad, Pylur and Edachira in Kollengode panchayat and areas like Meenakshipuram in Perumatty panchayat by the Express reveals the extent of wanton destruction caused to the once fertile paddy fields. Most of the fertile land in these villages are dotted with brick kilns and huge craters, dug up recklessly by the contractors.
“We have stopped collecting annual licence fees from the brick kiln operators since it was a pittance of Rs 2,000. We had thought of banning the leasing out of paddy fields. But the poor farmers came and begged us to allow them to lease out their lands to brick kiln operators so that they could pay off their liabilities. We cannot ignore the pleas of the farmers but at the same time we also know that untold damage is being caused to the environment and food security, ” says Guruvayurappan, vice-president, Kollengode panchayat.
Once the soil extraction is complete, the fields would become uncultivable — an event that might sound the death knell for the basic livelihood of the small and marginal farmers.
“We have taken these fields on lease for the second year. Last year we sold bricks for Rs 4.80 to Rs 5.20 per piece. This year, half a dozen more contractors arrived in the same area. The prices of bricks have slumped to Rs 3.60 to Rs 3.80 per piece,” says the manager of one of the brick kilns in Seethargundu, who did not want to be named.
Large-scale use of excavators and trolleys has made the extraction of clay easier.
“It is a very sad sight to see these kilns exploiting the poverty of the local population. A farmer is offered 10 times more than the returns he gets from one acre of paddy farming. The government needs to take stern action,“ says K Krishnankutty, former MLA and the state secretary-general of the Socialist Janatha.