Lack of political will and failure of bureaucracy is diminishing Goa's agriculture

AGRICULTURE is a full time, serious activity. Agriculture does not mean just paddy cultivation. More than 300 crops have been historically cultivated in Goa, 70 crops are popular and yields of paddy are comfortable where farmers still take serious interest.

There are closely guarded secrets behind tenanted agricultural lands which are deliberately kept fallow despite government pouring subsidies to promote agro-horticulture. This has nothing to with operational holding size. It is not just sufficient to make the ‘tenant’ the ‘cultivator’ of the land he tills. That was not the only purpose of agricultural land reforms and tenancy act in Goa. No such liberty exists in any other state in India which launched land reforms. But Goan politicians since 1980 have created that impression. Agriculture needs discipline, directions, a time-tested cropping pattern and an operational calendar.

Administrative Fraud

The rain-fed agriculture season has begun but the government is once again sleeping to invoke, publicise and enforce Order-RD/TNC/RLS/61/69-75, issued on June 13, 1975, published in the official gazette, Series II, No 12, dated June 19, 1975. The order of revenue department gives the "directives to be followed by tenants in cultivating lands held by them". These directives would be reproduced verbatim below in this article so that people can see for themselves the administrative fraud and comments would be given in the next part of my article.

Directives Flayed

It is a popular myth that Goa’s agriculture is dying. It is not dead but has been systematically murdered by not enforcing the empowering provisions of Goa Agricultural Tenancy Act and Rules. In pursuance of the provisions to Rule 15A of the Goa, Daman and Diu Agricultural Tenancy Rules, 1965, the revenue department in 1975 issued these directives on the following matters for being implemented and followed by the tenants in cultivating the lands held by them: — (i) The fields to be cultivated shall be properly levelled, devoid of stubbles and ploughed and brought to a fine tilth. The fields shall also be sub-divided into convenient plots surrounded by bunds for even distribution of water and also preventing washing away of inputs. These operations shall be conducted before the actual sowing operations are taken up.

ii) (a) In Kher and Khazan lands (not subject to saline water inundation) and where cultivation of paddy is undertaken by ‘Xelli’ methods, the fields shall be ploughed immediately after the harvest of the previous crop and the side bunds shall be strengthened before the actual sowing of the crop is taken up. In case of Khazan lands marginal to river banks and subject to inundation of saline water, preliminaries of cultivation such as ploughing or digging, de-silting of drains, maintenance and repairs to the protective bunds, shall be completed, latest by the end of May to ensure better de-salinization of field with the first monsoon showers and to prevent wind and water erosion. In case of morod lands, the proper tillage shall be initiated as soon as the monsoon sets in that is within 15 days from the date of onset of monsoon, so as to prevent any excess of water to be lost by surface run-off. The pudding operation shall be carried out when paddy is sown by ‘row’ (germinated seeds) method or by transplanted crop method: (b) For other seasonal crops such as vegetables, pulses oil-seeds etc, the land shall be ploughed soon after the harvest of the previous crop when there is moisture in the soil, so as to ensure a fine tilth required for a good seed bed. However, the minimum number of ploughing and harrowings, to be attained before sowing of any of the above crops, shall not be less than three. iii) The directive stipulated in item (ii) above shall invariably be adopted to eradicate weeds and shrubs. However, in low-lying areas where humidity prevails removal of weeds shall be undertaken either by hand picking (manual labour) or by application of weedicides in consultation with the Zonal Agricultural Officer of the respective area. iv) (a) For paddy — Depending upon the nature of topography of the soil, the following varieties of crops or such other varieties as may be recommended by the Directorate of Agriculture from time to time, shall be raised namely: - 1) In ‘morod’ and Kher areas with limited supply or irrigation facilities - short duration crop. 2) In Kher areas with adequate water facilities and low-lying areas medium and long duration crop; 3) Tank bed areas sown during kharif season short duration crop; 4) In low-lying areas subjected to prolonged flood - flood resistant variety; 5) Saline areas — salt resistant varieties. b) For seasonal crops - For other seasonal crops, such as vegetables, oilseeds and pulses, any variety suitable for a particular area shall be raised, depending upon the season, availability of reserves and irrigation facilities. v) Seeds shall necessarily be treated before sowing by using such organic mercurial compounds as may be recommended by the Directorate of Agriculture. vi) Dates for closing and opening of bandharas, tanks and weirs shall be earmarked in consultation with the Zonal Agricultural Officer of the area. The above operation shall be undertaken under the supervision of a person nominated by the village panchayat of the area.

Better Irrigation Facilities

vii) The drainage and irrigation channels shall be maintained in good condition well in advance of the cropping season that is by the end of April for Kharif crop and by the end of October for Rabi crop; the above activity shall be accomplished under the supervision of the rural engineer of the area. viii) The beds and channels, rivulets, rivers etc shall in no case, be used for cultivation purposes to avoid silting of water course and obstruction to free flow of water. ix) Only shallow rooted crops as may be recommended by the Directorate of Agriculture shall be allowed to be raided on bunds, embankments, during kharif season and after the harvest of the crop the stubbles shall be covered by a layer of clay known as ‘thor’ and ‘hupto’ which will strengthen the bund. "Who would file a compliance report on this?

Agriculture in Goa follows a “GSDP deficit” model. It means considering the fertility of land, suitability of climate and crops and other favorable agronomic and management factors, the real contribution from agriculture to GSDP should have been 10 times more. Land holding size in China is less than Goa so this should not be a hindrance. In 2002-03, agriculture contributed 481 crore to Gross state domestic product (GSDP) at constant prices. In the same year government spent 17 crore on agriculture department. In 2010-11 agriculture contributed 658 crore to GSDP at constant prices. In that year government spent 58 crore on agriculture department. The budget estimate for 2012-13 on agriculture is 137 crore. This works out to be 9,418 per capita or 2.28 lakh per cultivator. This expenditure is fairly high considering the small size of the state.

Apathy Towards Agriculture

The estimated contribution of agriculture to GSDP during 2012-13 would be about 800 crore. Actually it should have been 10,000 crore. This “GSDP deficit’ is because of inaction from revenue and agriculture departments. These figures indicate that despite substantial increase of budgetary expenditure on agriculture department there is no matching increase in contribution of agriculture to GSDP. Agricultural sector needs a rule of law. But the revenue and agriculture departments have encouraged lawlessness. Both the departments have become very academic and have no proactive agenda to enforce the statutes under them. Here is a test case. Let both the collectors of north and South Goa submit detail annual taluka-wise compliance reports on enforcement of Revenue Inspectors (Duties And Functions) Rules, 1969, notified in February 1971.

Majority of 25 functions notified refer to agrarian economy. If we see the tragedy of agriculture in Goa it automatically becomes clear that since 1971 revenue inspectors did not perform these functions. Officers of both these departments silently watch the degradation of fertile lands and illegal conversion of fertile farms and expect social activists and the media to report about such decay. No officer from revenue or agriculture department has ‘suo moto’ visited the uncultivated khazan paddy fields of Calapur, Durgavadi, Morombaim o pequeno, Morombim o grande, Murda, Chimbel, or have held series of meetings with stakeholders to investigate the reasons for non cultivation and come out with a systematic cultivation schedule, an attractive package for intensive, secure, remunerative farming.

Thriving Pisciculture Mafia

If this is the situation within five kms of the headquarters then we can imagine the government attitude towards rest of Goa. At present there is no accountability and no fixing of responsibilities for not following the statutes. But once the office of Goa Lokpal becomes operational then the civil society activists are sure to drag the real killers of Goa’s agriculture before it with documentary evidence of criminal administrative negligence.

In the post liberation history of Goa, I could identify only one upright officer, Mr Prasad Lolienkar from junior cadre of Goa civil service, who as newly posted mamlatdar of Salcete had prepared a 13 pages note to expose the illegalities and malpractices in the revenue, agriculture and fisheries department. He was shocked by the thriving illegal business of pisciculture in Salcete in total violation of the apex court judgment. He was worried about protection of fertile khazan agricultural lands. As a result of his proactive enthusiasm and the explosive note, he was quietly transferred outside Salcete and the pisciculture mafia has since continued its operations with full political support.

Neglect of Irrigated Lands

By not enforcing Command Area Development Bill, 1997 the water resources department has turned a blind eye to irrigated lands which have been kept fallow in command areas of Anjuna, Tilari and Selaulim projects. A serious full time farmer doesn’t need to be told about his responsibilities. But the number of non serious cultivators has increased. The Chief Minister of Goa should bluntly tell the cultivators especially those who got ownership of the land under the tenancy act - either you cultivate the land with full government support or give it to those who can. Otherwise the cabinet should resolve and the Chief Minister should direct invocation of clause 36 of tenancy act to assume management of lands kept uncultivated for three years. No statutory leniency should be shown to ‘absentee farmers’ especially when government spends per capita ` 9,418 on agriculture.

There is no choice for those who claimed ownership of lands for the purpose of farming. They need to either cultivate these lands or subject themselves to clause 36 of Tenancy Act. Land ownership/tenureship is a complex issue in Goa. The situation at the time of liberation is given by Dr J C Almeida in his 1967 volumes - ‘Aspects of the agricultural activity in Goa, Daman and Diu’. Interestingly no other publication of state government has published this data. The Chapter 1, clause 2 (23) defines tenant under Tenancy Act, 1964. The government has not made it clear to the people and media that the term “tenants” was no longer valid after Fifth Amendment and after the Tenancy Act and Rules were incorporated in ninth schedule of Indian Constitution in 1984. Now all tenants are cultivators and need to be disciplined as cultivators. Both revenue and agriculture departments have failed over past 45 years to discharge their statutory mandate intimately linked to conservation of fertile land resources and promotion of agrarian economy. Their consistent lack of interest in enforcing the detail provisions related to agricultural lands under land revenue code 1968 and rules and Goa Tenancy Act and Rules, 1964 is unprecedented in post liberation history of Goa. They successfully dismantled in 45 years what the Portuguese could not easily destroy in 450 years. They are the real killers of Goa’s agriculture. (concluded).


Nandkumar Kamat
Lack of enforcement of Goa Agricultural Tenancy Act and Rules and neglect of irrigated land is slowly reducing the agricultural productivity of the state