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Anti-reclamation stir comes full circle

A. Harikumar

With Achuthanandan's `no' to crop destruction

ALAPPUZHA: The anti-reclamation stir launched by the Kerala State Karshaka Thozhilali Union (KSKTU) at Mancombu in 1996-97 against filling up of paddy fields for purposes other than cultivation has come full circle with Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan announcing at a KSKTU meeting at Mancombu on Monday that destruction of crops will not be carried out as a part of the agitation for protection of paddy cultivation in future.

The anti-reclamation stir had earned the sobriquet ``vettinirathal samaram'' following the violent methods resorted to by the KSKTU cadre. It was Mr. Achuthanandan himself who had inaugurated the agitation in 1996-97.

The first victim of the stir was a farmer at Mancombu who had planted coconut and other crops in his reclaimed paddy field. The KSKTU workers destroyed the crops completely. That was followed by destruction of crops in a four-acre plot by the side of Alappuzha-Changanassery road.

The stir, later, spread to other parts of Alappuzha district, which included Charumood, Veetikkode and Nooranad. The KSKTU cadres planted the party flag at a plot at Vetticode, which was levelled by its owner for forming an industrial unit. The industrialist had to revoke his plan following the fierce agitation by the KSKTU men. Violence and forceful occupation of the filled up paddy field was the main feature of the KSKTU stir then and the CPI(M) did not interfere in it.

Meanwhile, the stir had evoked counter allegations against the CPI(M). There had been allegations that the Kuttanad Chethu Tozhilali Union office, where the stir was inaugurated, was constructed in a filled up paddy field.

Those who opposed the anti-reclamation stir had pointed out that while the KSKTU was organising anti-reclamation agitation, the farmers of Kuttanad were not getting enough workers for labour in the paddy fields. According to the farmers, the absence of adequate number of labourers was one of the reasons that forced them to level paddy fields and cultivate less labour-intensive crops there.

There had also been allegations that groupism in the CPI(M) was the reason behind the violent stir. It had been alleged that the KSKTU, which owed allegiance to Mr. Achuthanandan, had organised intense agitation to decrease the influence of CITU lobby in the party. The stir lost its steam, later, when the CPI(M) decreased the tempo of the agitation following the criticisms raised against it.

It has to be noted that those who had opposed the stir and argued that the farmer had the right to cultivate the crop of his liking on his land are now stressing the need to protect paddy fields.

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