April 18, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether the Agricultural Land Restriction Bill 2023 will protect Goan farmers. We also look at the first AI radio jockey in Kerala, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Agricultural Land Restriction Bill 2023: Does it sufficiently protect Goan farmers?
India’s coastal areas are home to nearly 17 crore people. In Goa, which lies in the Konkan region of India’s west coast, one-fourth of the population is sustained by agriculture. Unlike the state’s minuscule kilometre squares, Goa’s agricultural problems have become sizeable over the past decade. Without an agricultural policy and with the portion of agricultural land diminishing, Goa’s farmers are in a fix.
Recently, the Goa Legislative Assembly passed the Goa Restriction on Transfer of Agricultural Land Bill 2023 amidst much unrest. The Opposition wanted the state government to refer the Bill to a committee before passing it. Farmers’ associations planning a statewide campaign against the Bill argue that it will sound the death knell for the state.
Nestled between the Arabian Sea and the Sahyadri range, Goa was primarily an agricultural state at the time of its independence in 1961. Gradually the pace of growth of the industrial and service sectors ensured that mining, tourism, and manufacturing took up the bulk of contributions to the state’s GDP. Agriculture, however, is still one of the mainstay occupations in Goa.
Rice and fish are staples in the Goan diet. Over 37% of Goa’s cultivated land is used to grow rice. The state also has Khazan farming, an estuarine agricultural system that supports joint rice and fish farming. But there’s a snag. While the urban population is increasing, the land under cultivation is declining.
The area of operational farmlands in Goa has been shrinking over the years. In 2018, a government report showed that Goa had experienced the maximum shrinkage of farmlands in India.
Rice cultivation is seeing a negative trend too. There are several reasons for this. Farmers are shifting to more lucrative crops. Some point to the system of land inheritance under which property is divided between heirs. Over the generations, this has caused agricultural holdings to be extremely small and fragmented. About 80% of agricultural land in Goa is under 2 hectares.
Another issue is that Goans are either selling, converting, or renting their land holding for commercial and residential uses. Goa has the largest urban population among all small states, and a vastly reduced agricultural area exacerbates the pressure on the sector.
This is why in 2016, environmentalists opposed amendments to the Town & Country Planning Act, which permitted tourist activities in ecologically sensitive zones. The Town and Country Planning (TCP) Amendment Bill 2018 further relaxed land conversion when it allowed lands previously barred from construction use to be re-classified.
On the face of it, the latest Bill offers a solution to this problem. It seeks to restrict the transfer of agricultural land “by way of sale, gift, exchange, lease or by any other mode” to non-agriculturists or for non-agricultural purposes. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant believes that there are no grounds for opposition to the Bill, but farmers and activists aren’t having it.
VIEW: It’s a remedy
The Bill is a direct measure to tackle the problem of declining rice fields and help ensure food security in the state to some degree. It permits only farmers to buy agricultural land. It mandates non-Goans to furnish legal documentation that proves their farmer status. Apart from this, the Bill also imposes fines for contravention of its provisions.
The exceptions in the Bill are tied up with stringent requirements. Only in special circumstances can the land be sold to non-agriculturalists or for non-agricultural purposes. Farmers can sell agricultural land to non-agriculturalists only after securing permission from the Collector, only if the buyer can prove that they have the intention and capacity to cultivate the land. They’ll have to start cultivating rice within three years from the date of acquisition and continue the process, the failure of which will compel the government to wrest the land.
The Bill fulfils the longstanding demand of Goan farmers to ban farmland sales for non-agriculturalists. It’s the second such Bill in 60 years that safeguards rice cultivation. According to CM Sawant, it will prevent farmland from being converted for other purposes or taken over by non-agricultural buyers.
COUNTERVIEW: It misses the mark
The biggest criticism of the Bill is that it doesn’t completely ban farmland conversion. Its provisions for exceptional circumstances undo the security that the Bill proposes to offer. Empowering the Collector to transfer land to industrialists or commercial undertakings allows the law to be blatantly misused. There’s already evidence of the TCP Act being misused and flouted by public servants to allow farmland conversion.
The bill doesn’t protect the farmers enough. It restricts the definition of farmland to rice fields. This leaves other agricultural land used to grow millets, groundnuts, cashews and orchards for mangos, cashew, and coconut vulnerable to non-agricultural buyers. It has many loopholes for farmland to be considered non-agricultural. For instance, if any plot is part of a TCP plan, it won’t be regarded as agricultural land.
The Opposition parties argue that the government should have drafted the Bill based on evaluation data and passed it only after conferring with agriculturalists and experts. They argue that the Bill could fundamentally change the basic character of the coastal area by promoting farmhouse culture. It will adversely affect the Goan farmer and the state’s food security situation.
- Agricultural Productivity in Goa: An Evaluation – Jetir
- Status Paper on Rice in Goa – ICAR
- Goa sees sharpest dip in farm sizes, Sikkim follows – Down to Earth
- Town planning bill clears way for change of land use in Goa – Business Standard
- In new bill, industries can buy agriculture land ‘to pursue farming’ – The Times of India
- Will Goa Restriction on Transfer of Agricultural Land Bill, 2023, help in protecting agriculture in the State? – Herald Goa
- Farmers plan campaign against agri land bill, say it’ll sound death knell for Goa – Hindustan Times
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Agricultural Land Restriction Bill 2023 sufficiently protects Goan farmers.
b) Agricultural Land Restriction Bill 2023 doesn’t sufficiently protect Goan farmers.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
It’s Time the Veil of Secrecy Is Lifted Off the Pulwama Tragedy
For the Left:
Indian History and its Course Correction That Cannot Be Delayed Any Further
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Delhi HC restricts sale of Taza water (New Delhi) – The Delhi High Court irrevocably prohibited a man from selling mineral water under the name ‘Taza Water Plus’ after Tata Sons Private Ltd filed a trademark infringement complaint, observing that use of bottled drinking water of lesser quality might result in deaths. The HC also ordered him to pay Tata Sons ₹3 lakh in damages. In its March 28 order, Justice Sanjeev Narula’s single-judge bench concluded that the packaging and branding of ‘Taza Water Plus’ is a stark imitation of ‘Tata Water Plus’.
Why it matters: The court also stated that by mimicking the appearance of another product, Khan was putting the health of the public at risk by selling inferior quality water with identical packaging. The court observed that consumers would buy the product under the impression that they are buying it from a reputed brand, and the ill effects of Taza would reflect badly on Tata Water Plus. Hence, the court ruled that Khan was guilty of risking public safety as well.
RJ Gregory: Your new AI host (Kerala) – The Sargakshetra radio channel launched last week in Kerala has an AI radio jockey. RJ Gregory has become the first Artificial Intelligence radio jockey to host a show in Kerala. The Catholic Church’s CMI congregation inaugurated the community radio station in Mannanam, Kottayam, and it is available on FM 89.6.
Why it matters: According to Fr Alex Praikalam, managing director of Sargakshetra, RJ Gregory has been launched on a trial basis for the time being. He explained that the radio station aspired to try something novel and unique for its listeners. He said that RJ Gregory is the product of Sargakshetra’s desire to keep up with the times or stay ahead of them. An AI radio jockey is definitely a new concept, but it would be fun to see how an AI will perform as an RJ, a job that requires the human touch.
Ridding vehicles older than 15 years (West Bengal) – West Bengal’s transport department has begun the process of destroying commercial transport vehicles older than 15 years in Kolkata and Howrah. These automobiles are still listed on the ‘Vahan’ portal, which is the country’s integrated vehicular database online. The move is part of the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) mandate to clean up outdated polluting automobiles in the city.
Why it matters: Automobiles registered between the 1st of January 1970 and December 31, 1999, are chosen for disposal in the first phase. During this time, around 1,30,046 automobiles were registered in Kolkata and 20,136 in Howrah. However, 66,217 cars in Kolkata and 211 in Howrah were not approved due to double registration with other regional transport offices (RTOs), leaving just 64,274 vehicles in Kolkata and 12,168 in Howrah to be properly destroyed. Old vehicles release more affluents into the atmosphere because of their age as well as their outdated build. The latest build models to counter emissions follow the BS-VI regulations.
11 people succumb to heatstroke (Maharashtra) – Eleven individuals died from heat stroke while sitting in the open at the Maharashtra Bhushan award ceremony on Sunday. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde also visited a hospital where 50 individuals were being treated for heat-related illnesses. Union Home Minister Amit Shah was invited to felicitate the Maharashtra government’s award to social activist Appasaheb Dharmadhikari. The event was organised at Navi Mumbai, with a recorded daytime temperature of 38 degrees Celsius.
Why it matters: While the venue was well-equipped with a good sound system and other various instruments, a shade was not built for the audience. The CM announced a compensation of ₹5 lakh each to the families of the deceased. The Indian Metrological Department (IMD) has issued a yellow alert in the state of Maharashtra. It also stated that temperatures in several regions of the nation might climb by 3-5 degrees Celsius during the next five days. According to the IMD, India had its warmest February since record-keeping started in 1901. However, above-average rainfall held temperatures in check in March.
CM inspects security measures at Kaziranga (Assam) – Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma made a visit to the Kaziranga national park, known for housing the endangered species of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros. The Chief Minister toured and inspected the place and took note of all the security measures, and spoke to the ground-level staff of the national park.
Why it matters: While the government has been making several efforts to control the poaching of wildlife, especially animals protected by the state, the poachers somehow always leave the efforts of the government in the dust. The Indian rhinoceros is poached for its horn, which is believed to have very strong medicinal properties. The year 2022 was recorded as the first year since 1977 when no rhino was poached in Assam. However, several sources later claimed that the Assam government is telling lies to the public.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
$281 million – Nike and Adidas footwear manufacturer Pou Chen will spend $281 million in India, creating 20,000 jobs.