Kerala Farmers Demand Segregation of Forests and Human Settlements
AIKS delegation submitting memorandum to Bhupender Yadav at Parliament
New Delhi: On Monday, about 150 farmers and tribals from various districts of Kerala descended in the capital to put pressure on the Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Bhupender Yadav to bring amendments to Central Forest and Wildlife Acts in view of the severe human-animal conflicts in the coastal state.
In the morning, a delegation of Valsan Panoli, secretary of Kerala Karshakasangham, P Krishnaprasad, finance secretary of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Ashok Dhawale, president of AIKS, and Rajya Sabha MPs John Brittas and V Sivadasan met Yadav in the Parliament.
According to the delegation, Yadav has assured that action will be taken to control human-animal conflict and protect human life and crop through directing the department to explore possibility of segregating forests and human habitat.
Following the meeting, a march was taken out from Kerala House to Jantar Mantar.
At Jantar Mantar, Elamaram Kareem, also a Rajya Sabha MP, as well as Hannan Mollah, general secretary of AIKS joined the demonstration.
Rajya Sabha MP, Elamaram Kareem addresses Kerala’s farmers
The whole matter pertains to the continuous wild attacks taking place in Kerala. According to Panoli, while 66 people – mostly farmers and tribals – were killed this year, the last decade saw “blood spill many times over”, as 1,310 people were killed in attacks. “Out of this 270 were killed in the Palakkad alone,” the veteran farmer leader said while addressing the demonstration. He added that in this same period, 4,000 farmers were injured in attacks.
Crop damage is another significant dimension of the farmers’ distress. It was claimed that animals like elephants, tigers, wild boars, monkeys, mountain squirrels, deers and peacocks would enter farms “day and night” and “destroy everything cultivated like bananas, coconuts, arecanut, paddy, and tuber crops like tapioca.
The government figures on fatal deaths due to wild attacks give a similar picture. In a response to a question asked in the Parliament by DMK MP DNV Senthilkumar on data on human-animal conflicts, Minister of State Ashwini Kumar Choubey stated that 47 deaths had been caused by elephant attacks in Kerala in the last three years.
P Krishnaprasad, in his welcome address, stated some figures on Kerala’s forest cover, which stands at 29.1% of state’s territory. “It is the farmers here who keep Kerala green by planting fruit trees on 24% on the non-forest land. Society must recognise the contributions of farmers in environmental restoration and food production.” He added that it was matter of grave concern that successive Central governments had promoted commercial trees like Eucalyptus, Manchium, Silver Oak, etc, thereby destroying the natural flora and fauna to an irreparable extent.
Indeed, the farmers of Kerala see this as a major cause of loss of habitat for wild animals in the state, which in turn has exaggerated the human-animal conflict in the region. Even in their meeting with the Minister today, they demanded that such artificial forests be felled on an immediate basis.
In a press statement by AIKS, it is noted that the minister responded favourable to this demand. The left-wing peasant organisation believes that “this will help to ensure fodder and water resources and ponds for the wild life would be developed within the forest.”
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