Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s statement on utilisation of paddy fields for purposes other than agriculture at the Emerging Kerala meet has raised a controversy.
Environment and farmers organisations under the banner of ‘Save our Rice Campaign’ have termed the statement ‘’highly irresponsible’’. The Green organisations said that such statements coming a top official of the topmost planning body of the country, shows that there are plans that could destroy Kerala’s natural resources and food security base.
This approach of the Planning Commission fostered by the policies of the present State Government will have very serious implications on the food and water security of the state.
‘’Ahluwalia’s statement shows his total ignorance about the importance of paddy wetland ecosystems of Kerala in terms of water security, local economy and biological richness,’’ they said in a statement issued here today.
The local self-governments are aware on the need of conservation of paddy wetlands for ensuring water security. The debate across the state on this issue eventually led to the promulgation of the Paddy and Wetland Conservation Act in 2008. Kerala’s very rich and unique paddy eco-systems have been massively destroyed in the last 30 years and now the state produces only about 15 percent of its domestic food requirements. However, there has been an increasing awareness about the importance of paddy cultivation and thousands of farmers, and even school children have come back to paddy cultivation.
‘’Agriculture is a state subject and the statement from the Planning Commission vice-chairman is totally irresponsible. It is an affront to the officials, scientists, planners and farmers of the state, who has been taking all efforts to protect the paddy and wetlands,’’ said Usha S , national convener of the Save Our Rice campaign, which is a network of various organisations, farmers, rice experts, consumers and millers working towards the sustainability of paddy cultivation.
“Kerala’s highest priority should be to protect its paddy wetlands. The greater importance of paddy ecosystem is its rich biodiversity and its productivity. This cannot be overlooked,’’ she said.