Where has all the green gone
MLA Adelbert Nongrum takes up the issue of vanishing agricultural land in Shillong
Less than three decades ago, when urbanisation had not gained momentum in the quaint hill city, Shillong houses would be defined by lush gardens where fruits and vegetables would be in abundance. As the city grew, the home gardens made way to concrete structures. Many agricultural land too vanished.
A new bill, proposed by KHNAM legislator Adelbert Nongrum, seeks to focus on the vanishing greens and arable land in a majorly agrarian state.
In the procedural tangle during the recently concluded Assembly’s budget session, the important bill on agriculture and land got lost into oblivion. But Nongrum, said he would pursue the matter.
When the MLA wanted to move the private member’s bill, the procedural issue resulted in the inability of the MLA to take up the matter. This also led to pandemonium after he made another attempt to raise the issue. The move was disallowed as the MLA had erroneously moved privilege motion against the Speaker for not allowing discussion, and in the process, the issue was forgotten.
What the MLA wanted to speak about was alienation of agriculture land for non-agricultural purposes.
In the context of growing urbanisation and conversion of agriculture land into concrete residential areas, the bill assumes significance.
The Meghalaya Agricultural Land (Regulation) Bill, 2022, is to regulate the use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes for the preservation of arable land resources of the state and protection of agricultural land from colonization by residential, recreational, institutional, industrial and commercial activities. The Bill is the interest of sustaining the livelihood of farmers and ensuring food security.
There was a time when orange trees and other fruit trees adorned parts of the city but they have given way to buildings.
The MLA has included arable land either under cultivation or under temporary fallow as agricultural land . It also includes paddy field, vegetable plantation, fruit orchard and crop nursery, but does not include land abandoned under shifting cultivation.
The MLA has also suggested appointment of a Regulatory Authority together with subordinate officers to assist him with functions.
“As land is life and land with agriculture is the backbone of the state for sustainable livelihood of the future generation, the Bill is a must”, Nongrum said.
The Bill throws questions on large-scale landlessness in the state. Moreover, those who own agriculture land are only a few thereby the farmers becoming just workers under them without basic rights to claim.
Ironically, the official documents of the government claim that people of Meghalaya predominantly depend on agriculture.
The website of the Meghalaya agriculture department says that the economy of Meghalaya is basically agrarian as it is rural based with agriculture playing a predominant role in the state’s economy. Since 81% of the state’s population depends on agriculture, employment and income generation also depends on agricultural developmental activities to a great extent. The state is yet to touch the national level in economic and agricultural growth rate even after attaining full statehood, said the portal.
“Though, 81% of the population depends on agriculture, the net cropped area is only about 9.87% of the total geographical area of the state. The state is deficit in foodgrains by 1.22 lakh tonnes annually. This is due to a lot of constraints, such as the undulating topography, transport and communication problem, population dispersal pattern, inadequate credit support, poor marketing system, etc. To overcome these hurdles, future programmes are proposed, like increasing agricultural/horticultural production and productivity, research system on the development of economically viable and location specific technologies in rainfed, flood-prone irrigated areas, and increasing the utilisation of irrigation potential etc,” the government portal says.
At a time when food crisis is a major issue, it becomes imperative to save agricultural land. The bill gains importance in not only protecting arable land but also sustainably planning urbanisation in the hills.
~Team Sunday Monitor