KOCHI: Amid declining prices of agricultural commodities and continued political apathy, the farmers and their organisations in Kerala are coming under a single umbrella to form a strong lobbying force. The newly-floated ‘Kerala Farmers Federation (KEFF)’ will test the waters with the ‘Farmers Conclave 2017’ at the Amal Jyothi Engineering College, Kanjirapally, on September 21. The organisers hope to assemble at least 800 people, including representatives of other associations such as Church-backed Infarm and Karshakavedi at the event. “We’ve political parties which are supposed to protect farmers’ interests. But unfortunately, nothing has been done for their cause, either by the UDF or LDF.
The farmers have been sidelined by bureaucrats and politicians,” said Joshy Joseph Manniparambil, a Kanjirappallybased planter, who is anchoring the new movement. Joshy said farmers were being harassed in the name of mutation and land-ceiling laws. “A farmer is not able to sell his land because of the difficulty in getting the mutation done. Often he has to go to court to get the relief. He’s humiliated and harassed by the village officers,” Joshy said, adding though the price of agricultural commodities was plunging, the government was not in any way interested in helping farmers with a support price.
In Kerala, as per the 2011 Census, there is a total of 6.70 lakh cultivators and another 13.22 lakh agricultural labourers. If their families are also taken into consideration, farmers form a good lobbying force which no political parties can ignore. Rubber farmers, who have been bearing the brunt of low prices, number over 10 lakh in Kerala
But many within the farming community itself are skeptical about how far the new movement could succeed. “The biggest problem with farmers in Kerala is it’s very difficult to bring them together. Further, we’re not capable of violent protests like the ones we see in other parts of the country,” said Muvattupuzha-based New Rubber Farmers Forum’s chief coordinator Jeby Mathew.
“Farmers have realised the new reality that they can’t sustain only with agriculture, and hence most have other income-generating activities,” said Jeby, adding that forums like Infarm, though started with much promise, did not live up to it due to the emergence of communal elements or trade-union activists into the leadership positions.Joshy said the funding for the KEFF would be generated from within the members. “KEFF is an attempt to bring all farmers in the state into a single fold, irrespective of caste, religion and extent of holdings,” he said.
The newly floated Kerala Farmers Federation will organise the ‘Farmers Conclave 2017’ at Kanjirapally on September 21.