MAYILADUTHURAI: Farmers from Melaparuthikudi village began direct sowing amid police protection as
Section 144 was enforced in the village on Thursday. Mayiladuthurai RDO invoked Section 144 as per the recommendations of DSP M Vasantharaj following a scuffle which took place on June 27. Three farmers began Kuruvai paddy cultivation through direct sowing on Thursday even as 165 police personnel were
deployed for security.
"Policemen were deployed in large numbers as there were concerns that people might come from neighbouring villages to stop the sowing. There were no incidents on Thursday. It is the first time Section 144 has be invoked to protect agriculture in the district," Vasantharaj said.
The personnel, led by Vasantharaj and Additional SP Thangavel, included seven inspectors, 14 sub-inspectors, 25 armed reserve personnel, 40 special police personnel and constables.
It may be noted that a scuffle broke out between farm workers, farmers and the police in Melaparuthikudi on June 27. Farm workers stormed paddy fields and allegedly tried to stop the direct sowing. According to sources, Vasantharaj was allegedly assaulted in the melee. Around 38 people, including local farm
workers and CPM cadre, were arrested in this connection.
R Venkatraman, a farmer from Melaparuthikudi, said, "We are starting direct sowing only today while most others in the district started it two months ago. The delay was due to the conflict. We have sowed shorter-duration crop varieties such as ADT-43 and ADT-45 so that we are able to harvest Kuruvai paddy in October and start Samba in November. Direct sowing is preferred as it is economical and reduces the need for labourers."
Farm workers, predominantly from SC community, are opposed to the direct sowing undertaken by caste Hindu farmers, citing loss of livelihood. They are demanding the farmers to choose manual transplantation and system of rice intensification which involve manual labour and provide work to farm workers.
The workers also alleged that the direct sowing is a caste-motivated offensive from the farmers. The conflict dates back to an earlier incident in February, when people belonging to SC community were organising a temple festival. Caste Hindus allegedly prevented them from carrying a deity in procession through their streets. A violence followed and seven persons belonging to SC community were
booked for allegedly assaulting caste Hindus. Since then, the fallout between caste Hindus and SCs has widened.
The developments on Thursday anguished the farm workers although there was no physical response like June 27.
N Murali, a 39-year-old farm worker from Melaparuthikudi, said, "The farmers are settling scores by adopting this practice. Around 150 farm worker families are affected by this. Our livelihood is dependent on farm work as getting work under MGNREGS are rare. We have lost our livelihood today to caste oppression, which has received systematic and authoritarian assistance."