KOTTAYAM: For the first time in a decade, Methran Kayal in Kumarakom is gearing up for a second paddy cultivation in the same year. This is the culmination of years of farmers’ struggle to convert the barren wetland to a high-yielding paddy polder. That spectacular turnaround is also a testament to farmers’ resilience, their relentless protests to save over 400 acres of land from the clutches of land mafia.
Till 2008, farmers were cultivating paddy at Methran Kayal (Methran, Malayalam for Metropolitan, refers to the late Malankara Metropolitan Mor Dionysius V Joseph Pulikkottil). Over the years, many people quit farming due to the losses they suffered and the lack of support for the sector. Unable to continue farming without the collective effort, other too left the field. Unused, the area turned into a barren wetland. Sensing a possible gold mine, the land mafia soon closed in. Since Kumarakom is a tourism hotspot, realty majors wanted to develop the land for tourism activities.
In 2016, Chennai-based RakIndo Developers approached the state government seeking permission to fill the land for its proposed Kumarakom eco-tourism village project. The then Oommen Chandy-led government’s order giving a green light to the project ignited a controversy. Succumbing to protests from farmers and others, the state was forced to withdraw the order.
The farmers’ fight, however, was far from over. RakIndo, by then, had purchased 378 acres of land and refused to offer it when the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government decided to resume paddy cultivation.
Undeterred, farmers resumed paddy farming in October 2016 with the support of then Agriculture Minister V S Sunil Kumar. Later, the company joined in and leased its land for cultivation.
Now, Methran Kayal is all set to turn the single-time cultivation to double-time cultivation for the first time since its reclamation, said B Sunal, agriculture officer in Kumarakom, who was a force behind the transformation. “The state government has decided to start second season farming in Methran Kayal as part of the ‘Njangalum Krishiyilekk’ (We too are into farming) initiative. As part of this, work on strengthening the outer bunds in some areas is progressing. We hope to start the cultivation by June 15,” he said.