Upland farmers welcome govt.’s move to settle land disputes

No forcible demarcation to be done on disputed property

Farmers in upland areas have welcomed the move by the Forest and Revenue departments to jointly address long-pending disputes over ownership of agricultural land near forest regions. The approval of a resurvey as earlier sought by landowners is seen as a crucial intervention, which is likely to end long years of stand-off between property holders and various government departments.

“A proper demarcation of the existing forest land alone will help settler farmers in their struggle to prove ownership of their property. What we seek is the timely execution of promises, as many of us are victims of the impasse,” said a 68-year-old farmer who owns agricultural land near Muthappanpuzha. He added that many farmers along the forest borders were living in fear due to frequent evacuation threats from the government.

In the first phase, joint inspections will be conducted within the limits of the Thiruvambady constituency where farmers’ organisations have been on the warpath against the Forest Department’s “forcible conversion” of farmland into forest land. Settlers at Kandappanchal, Muthappanpuzha, and Marippuzha are expected to get its benefits.

As per the decision taken at a district-level meeting chaired by Forest Minister A.K. Saseendran, no forcible demarcation will be done by any department on disputed property. The Forest Department has been asked to lay boundary stones only in areas without land disputes.

A former functionary of the Indian Farmers Movement said there were many settler farmers who were unable to handle ownership disputes legally owing to financial constraints and ailments. The disputes even haunt their children despite the fact that they possess documents to prove ownership, he pointed out.

A few settler families at Kandappanchal said they could not even sell off land for meeting educational and other expenses owing to ownership disputes. The worst experience for them is wild animals damaging crops in the absence of preventive measures like trenches or power fences, they added.

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