It was just another luncheon meeting for the neck-tie wearing stiff businessmen....But for over 50 farmers all who had walked from nearbye bajpe village it was a matter of their existence.
Some offcials from Mangalore Special Economic Zone had come there to present a rosy picture of Mangalore and the surrounding areas, once SEZ was established.
Villagers who had to sacrifice their lands to appease certain businessmen were seen sitting in a tense, pensive mood. When the Kannadiga official started presentation in english, poor farmers asked him to speak the language they understand. Suddenly the president of the association, who organised the progrmme, jumped up from his chair and yelled out at the farmers.
`Nooooo, We have organised the programme, he will speak english only....' The president sitting just below a huge photograph of father of our nation MAHATMA GANDHI was issuing commands to the farmers as if they were pesky objects among trhe fleet of businessmen.
Ultimately an offcial understanding the situation, showed 'mercy' on farmers and agreed to speak in a mixture of kannada-english, which was followed by a thunderous clap from the farmers.
This took place a few months ago and now Mangalore SEZ has become one of the heated subjects of discussion in Mangalore. Officials and some vested interests always were trying to vacate the farmers from their fertile lands which spreads across thousands of acres. According to the 'official' report which has been prepared by one agency by the funding of MRPL, the promoter of Mangalore SEZ, says that almost all land over here is now useless for agriculture! That too according to their satellite surveys!
But for a person, who has little concern over human beings, the large areca gardens, paddy fields, can be found in this area. Even the team from Central Environmental Ministry which had visited the place very recently had a visit to the place, and sipping the cool tender coconut water they understood the real situation existing.
Yes. There are drylands in and around Bajpe, permude, Kalavar, Kateel and some parts of Bala, but these pathces of small hillocks are main areas of cashew cultivation. Even offcials from the Horticulture department agree that the large chunk of raw cashew comes from these areas. But if SEZ is established, not only the remaining green covers, but also these cashew bowls would disappear for ever.
People's representatives and officials always stick to the employment card. They say if SEZ is stopped, people wont get employment. But nobody assures what type of employment one can get, they also cannot specify whether or not the local people be getting priority in the recruitment.
Most agriculturists, if ,not all clarify any approching officials that they are fine in their farmlands when they try to lure them with lucrative rehabilitation package. What they want is not industries in their farms, they want these precious lands to be declared as SPECIAL AGRICULTURE ZONES.
Reason is pretty simple. Once an agriculture land is converted to industries, you can never find the green cover again.