Farmers plan campaign against agri land bill, say it’ll sound death knell for Goa - Hindustan Times
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Farmers plan campaign against agri land bill, say it’ll sound death knell for Goa

ByGerard de Souza
Apr 06, 2023 08:51 AM IST

Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant insisted the bill was introduced to prevent the sale of agricultural land to non-agriculturists

A farmers’ association plans a state-wide campaign against the Goa Restriction on Transfer of Agricultural Land Bill that was passed last week amid protests and to petition governor P S Sreedharan Pillai against granting assent to it, saying the legislation will sound a death knell for the state.

Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant has called the opposition to the bill unfounded. (PTI)
Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant has called the opposition to the bill unfounded. (PTI)

The bill in theory seeks to prohibit the transfer of agricultural land “by way of sale, gift, exchange, lease or by any other mode” to non-agriculturists. But activists and cultivators pointed to exceptions in the bill and insisted they undo the protections that ensured that agricultural land remained with local farmers and tenants.

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The bill empowers collectors to permit the transfer of land to non-agriculturists if it is required for agriculture by an industrial or commercial undertaking or a cooperative farming society. Land can also be transferred to non-agriculturists if they intend to take up agriculture and are capable of cultivating land personally in three years.

Suresh Palkar, an office-bearer of the Goa Kul Mundkar Association that plans the state-wide campaign, said the bill murders agriculture. “The definition of agriculture has been changed. Fields will be finished, orchards will be finished and the hills will be finished, terraced plantations will be finished. The future of farming is at risk in Goa.” He added they will go to each village and move resolutions in the local councils against the bill.

Activist Swapnesh Sherlekar pointed out that the bill only defines an area used for paddy cultivation as agricultural land. Sherlekar said the bill says land can be classified as non-agriculture in a zone planning map. “...agricultural land will have no protection and can easily be used for real estate purposes.”

Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant insisted the opposition to the bill is unfounded and claimed it was introduced to prevent the sale of agricultural lands to non-agriculturists. “...those opposing are doing so on behalf of some vested interests,” Sawant said.

Congress lawmaker Carlos Alvares Ferreira, who opposed the bill in the assembly, referred to the provisions of the bill and questioned how setting up a farmhouse can be defined as agriculture. He added the bill opens the floodgates to the conversion of agricultural land into farmhouses.

“They were saying it [bill] is to protect agriculture, but anyone coming from any part of India setting up even a garden at the back of his house can become an agriculturist. Agriculture includes building farmhouses. I am concerned we will have farmhouse culture here.”

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