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Farm policy spells ‘doom’

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 23: Farmers of four villages — Patnagarh, Ghumer, Ghunghutipali and Jalpali — in Bolangir have reportedly lost 340 acres to an Agra-based private firm, Taj Gas Limited, in the name of Jatropha farming.

Cases of “land acquisitions in the name of cash cop cultivation” came to the forefront when a team of environmental researchers reached Patnagarh in Bolangir following reports of farmers’ unrest in parts of the district.

The block has witnessed mega promotion of jatropha by private firms in the past few years.

Vasundhara, an NGO working for forest rights, independently carried out the survey.

“The new policy emphasises on contract as well as compact farming in order to get higher returns. This has ushered in ‘corporatisation’ of agriculture where firms are encouraged to enter the green sector,” said environmentalist Sweta Mishra. It seems private firms are taking full advantage of the liberalised policy. In Bolangir alone there are more than 10 companies, from the northern states of India, including some “dubious” ones, involved in farming — states the survey.

The survey also states that the entry of private firms have taken its toll on traditional resource management and agriculture.

The new policy stresses on corporate farming, whose objective is to maximise productivity of crops. Maximisation of production requires consolidated land units. In order to ensure consolidated units, farmers are asked to enter into an agreement with private units to assure dedicated supply.

“The practice of compact farming is likely to have a serious impact on the socio-economic well being of those who fall in the categories of landless, marginal and small farmers,” explained Tushar Dash, one of the researchers.

It would deprive smaller farmers and they would contribute little to the system, as they own small holdings. Secondly, owing to the emphasis given to cash crops like jatropha, there might be a food scarcity.

“Jatropha is unsuitable for the local climate, involves greater cost, requires more water, poses considerable health hazards and may have a negative impact on the environment and agro-bio-diversity. When experiments have failed in other countries, why is there a blind promotion in Orissa?” asked Dash.

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