Kerala: Pokkali farmers in Chellanam allege damaging of crops by ‘chal mafia’

There is a lot of hype when it comes to Pokkali cultivation, a traditional farming technique endemic to the paddy fields in places close to the coast in the district.
Image used for representational purposes
Image used for representational purposes

KOCHI: There is a lot of hype when it comes to Pokkali cultivation, a traditional farming technique endemic to the paddy fields in places close to the coast in the district. However, at Maruvakkad padasekharam in Chellanam, things seem to be going bad for the farmers. They allege the ‘chal mafia’ (illegal shrimp cultivators) have taken over the fields and are destroying the Pokkali cultivation. The farmers will soon launch a series of agitations to highlight the issue.

“It’s sad to see that even Agriculture Minister P Prasad is becoming a party to the nefarious schemes of the chal mafia,” said Deepak Manjadiparambil, whose family owns two-and-a-half acres of paddy field in the padashekharam.

He said a condition to get a licence to farm shrimps is that the field has to be used to grow Pokkali too. “It is an interconnected cultivation practice,” he said.“Shrimp is farmed during November and December. But that happens only after the paddy harvest. However, at Maruvakkad, Pokkali cultivation happens just to get the licence for shrimp cultivation,” said Deepak.

The comparison of the paddy field owned by him and the ones cultivated by the leasees could be checked to know the difference in quality, he said. “The paddy harvested by the minister hardly has any grain. It would be a big surprise if they can thresh out two kilos of rice in the 105 acres they cultivated,” he said.

Another farmer, under the condition of anonymity, said the chal mafia illegally cultivates shrimp in public water bodies too. The farmers allege the mafia invaded the water bodies and caught shrimps without a licence last year by circumventing the Nagaresh laws.

“Usually, the cultivation happens after the water is drained from the fields. However, for some time, the water has been only partially drained. This poses a threat to the paddy fields of other individual farmers,” said Deepak. Even the shrimp cultivation is not carried out properly, he said. Deepak said the mafia releases shrimp babies into the water. “We have evidence,” he said.

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