Samwad Yatra Days 15-16: Reports from Mallapuram and Palakkad (Plachimada Struggle)
Public Meeting on Land Issues in Mallapuram District (Day 15)
A public meeting was organized at Manjeri in Mallapuram district. The local MLA, M.Umar participated in this meeting. He said that minority voices are absent in the discussion and implementation of land-reforms in Kerala. Speaking about Jansatyagraha, he said the strength of the movement is the coming together of voices from different struggles and groups.
Mr. Rashid, a political leader, spoke about the anti-corruption issue. Mr. Pouran, general secretary of PUCL said that the most progressive part of land-reforms act in Kerala 1957 has been ignored: Section 82 – guarantees land-entitlement for homeless and landless poor but this is also not implemented in the case of adivasis and dalits. It advocates for 15 decimal of homestead land but these sections. On the other hand, sections that give exemptions are exploited to further concentrate land in the hands of a few. Section 81 is the most misused section of the land-reform policy. The section gives exemptions to cash crops and that has been a disaster for land-reform. The exemption to plantations has also been exploited. Owners of land that is close to the road have converted their land into a plantation and this has allowed them to erect barricades which prevent the access for farmers whose land is farther from the road. The owners effectively cut off access to roads forcing the owners of land whose access to the road goes through the plantation to sell their lands. Expansion of the plantations forces people to either sell their land to plantation or keep them unproductive.
Afterwards there was a public rally in Malappuram.
Palakkad district (Day 16) –The Plachimada struggle
The morning was spent at the ashram of Mr. Krishna Kumar, a friend of Ekta Parishad. At a review meeting after lunch, Rajaji said that he envisions that this ashram will play a key role in spreading peace and non-violence in the State.
Later in the afternoon the yatra visited Plachimada which is famous for the Outside the Coca-Cola plant in Plachimada
community’s struggle against Coca Cola and their success in shutting down the bottling plant. Mr. Vilayodi Venugopal, Chairman of Plachimanda Anti-Coca-Cola struggle committee spoke about the affects of corporations like Coca-Cola on local ecology, bio-diversity, livelihoods of people living around the bottling plant. He said that the bottling plant affected the sale of tender coconuts and this destroys livelihood of farmers dependent on coconut plantation. Tuber crops were also affected by the bottling plant. He also said that the government has an obligation to protect the water sources of villages and added that there has been a drought in neighbouring areas because the plant has exhausted all the ground water sources in the area. He said that they are against the policy of giving corporations first rights over water sources.
Plachimada Leader presented with award
One of the women leaders of the struggle was presented with an award and the yatra joined the marchers in front of the closed down plant during a rain storm to show their solidarity.