THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The rules of Paddy Land and Wetland Act, 2008 states that the regularisation should be based on data bank prepared under the Act, but the state lacks in a comprehensive data bank and allegations are rife that many land owners had got their land off the data bank.
The Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland (Regularisation of Unauthorised Reclamation) rules, 2015 gazetted last month is alleged to water down the Conservation of Paddy and Wetland Act 2008.Environmentalists who have already raised their voice against regularisation of filled paddy field, said there was a possibility of even regularising reclamations after 2008.
They questioned how the government was going to find the type of land prior to 2008 sans a a data bank. Even persons who reclaimed paddy fields in 2015 could claim to have reclaimed it before 2008, they said.
Stating that Kerala was throwing away its paddy fields while the world was struggling to conserve farmland, green activist John Peruvanthanam alleged the government was only legalisisng a criminal activity in vogue till 2008. “Without a data bank, how will the government know the status of the land prior to 2008. After many years, the government could again regularise land keeping a cut-of year,” he said and added that the government move was against the Constitution.
The draft agriculture policy of the government published recently points out to indiscriminate reclamation of paddy fields, allegedly under the guise of developmental activities. The maximum area under rice was 8.81 lakh ha in 1974-75 with production at 13.34 lakh tonnes. But as per the current data, the area has decreased to 2.13 lakh ha and production to 5.2 lakh tonnes, according to the policy. Environmentalist C R Neelakantan said the new rules were an invitation to people to reclaim paddy lands.
“If it is 2008 for regularisation of paddy land reclamations, it could be 2015 in the coming years,” he said. There is a purposeful delay in preparing the data bank and many land owners had got their land off the data bank, he alleged.
Environmentalist C M Joy said the new rule was a threat to food security of the state. “As per rules, even if the land is mentioned in the data bank, it would be regularised by paying a minimal fine. The future generation will have to pay for the faults of the present government,” he said.