Communist Party of India Marxist (CPM) criticised the state governments of the ruling Congress party and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for cheating farmers of the state over regularisation of occupation on government lands.
While speaking to HT, CPM secretary Bhupender Singh said that geographically state land has 67% forest cover and 18% is used for agricultural purposes. However, 69% of the state population depends upon agriculture and horticulture activities for their livelihood.
"It is alarming that agricultural lands are shrinking due to industrialization, construction of roads and mega power projects. It is time to develop more agricultural lands which can be done by the regularization of farmer's occupation on government lands and the settlement of villagers forest rights under the Forest Rights Act 2006" said Bhupender.
He criticised the state government for misinforming the Himachal high court about the factual position of encroachments in the state which led to farmers facing eviction.
While disclosing details, Bhupender said that the former BJP state government asked farmers to declare encroachments on government lands and assured them of regularising their occupation in 2002. As many as 1,67,339 farmers of the state trusted the state government and declared their occupation on government lands with the hope of regularisation.
Party secretary said that it hardly makes any difference whether the BJP or Congress led the government as both cheated poor farmers. He said that it was important now for the government to settle farmers' rights, regularize occupied lands or lease out the same for agricultural activities.
"This policy can ensure a livelihood to small farmers while simultaneously the state can develop more agriculture lands which will help in creating more green cover" he added.
The CPM secretary said that the forest department was not only evicting farmers but axing trees on encroached lands which must be stopped immediately.