Budget proposal for plantation reforms triggers new controversy

Finance Minister clarifies that there was no move to amend the Land Reforms Act

Published: 13th March 2022 06:09 AM  |   Last Updated: 13th March 2022 06:09 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Following CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran’s veiled criticism on the proposal in the state budget to expand the list of crops permitted in plantations, Finance Minister K N Balagopal clarified that there was no move to amend the Land Reforms Act. “There was no mention of amending any act in budget,” Balagopal told reporters in Kollam. 

Earlier in the day, while speaking to reporters in New Delhi, Kanam Rajendran said the LDF hasn’t decided to amend the Land Reforms Act. “We will make our stand clear when such a discussion happens,” he said when asked about the controversy triggered by the budget proposal to include more crops, mainly fruit varieties, in the list of crops cultivable in plantations as per the Land Reforms Act. He said as far as he knew the budget proposal was regarding an existing provision that provided certain relaxation to plantation owners. 

While land ceiling for individuals and families has been placed at 15 acres as per the Land Reforms Act, there is no such ceiling on plantations. But, the act says clearly that only rubber, coffee and tea can be cultivated in plantations. 

“There needs to be timely amendments in the act to include more crops including fruit varieties in plantations. At the same time, we need to protect the aim of Land Reforms Act too. Government will go ahead with steps to protect farmers in this sector,” Balagopal had said in his budget speech. This announcement led to speculation that the government has decided to amend Land Reforms Act.  

“We will discuss with all on policy matters. There needs to be timely reforms and we need to think about the proposal for allowing more crops in plantations. Kanam Rajendran also said like that,” Balagopal said. 
The proposal to diversify crops was mooted by representatives of plantation owners during a pre-budget discussion. At present plantation owners are allowed to use 5 per cent of the land for non-plantation purposes including tourism. The proposal being considered by the CPM is to relax the cap on non-plantation area so that fruits like rambutan and litchi can be grown as inter crops.

Activists irked by plan to allow pomiculture in plantations

Kochi: The budgetary proposal for including new crops in the list of crops allowed in plantations has triggered a row in the state with activists suspecting a move to corporatise the agriculture sector. Finance Minister K N Balagopal had in his budget speech said that plantation laws will be updated by bringing relevant amendments to include pomiculture in plantations. Nonetheless, the objectives of land reform acts will be preserved,  he said. Under the Land Reforms Act enacted by then EMS government in 1958, land holdings cultivating rubber, tea and coffee were provided the status of plantations.

While private individuals could hold only 15 acres of land, there was no ceiling on plantations. Extending plantation status to pomiculture will undermine the very objective of the Land Reforms Act, said activist N M Pearson. “This will lead to commercialisation of agriculture and is against  Communist ideology. The amendment will enable corporates to purchase vast tracts of land and change the agricultural pattern in the state. This will also adversely impact the environment and ecologically fragile lands will be misused,” he said.The ideology behind Land Reforms Act was to ensure land rights to all and including more crops in plantation will be against the interests of the state, said rights activist Sunny M Kapikad. “The Communist policy document in 1956 allowed the status of industries to plantations to protect the rights of labourers. But if we allow cultivation of fruit-bearing plants like pineapple, this will be against the interests of estate workers. This is a malicious move to help the planters,” he added.


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