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A HAPPY KNOT OF FORESTS AND IRRIGATION BRINGS FORTH A HEALTHY AGRICULTURE
Seram Neken | 08 Aug 2012

Productive forces in Manipur have weakened considerably. Agricultural lands have been increasingly compromised for brick fields, saw mills and other industries. Young farmers and fishermen switch jobs to contract works and security agencies like the Police, VDF and Home Guards. The Forest department remains asleep amidst desertation in hills and the Minor Irrigation department becomes mad in Akash bills. Water that is supposed to be conserved by the forests and way-led to cultivable fields through drainages can hardly meet the farmers in the field. Officials of Agriculture department are tired of reaping wealth out of schemes and projects meant for farmers.

Works that attract contractors and government officials most, do more harm to common people. Minor Irrigation is considered most profitable to contractors for it tolerates Akash Bills of all hues. Huge amounts of money have been spent on constructing drainages in the fields. However, as most of the works are not actually done in the fields, the poor farmers are hit with water scarcity. Those in the fields suffer at the receiving end. Due to failure of proper irrigation in the fields, crop cultivation suffers in Manipur. Farmer guilds have been insisting the government to declare drought to save their livelihood. However, officially Manipur does not deserve to get drought benefits as the amount of rainfall here is enough for farming. The government needs to pay equal attention to forest, agriculture and irrigation for a green and sustainable Manipur.

Majority Indians live on agriculture while Indian agriculture depends solely on monsoon. Hence, rainfall steers the fate of millions of Indians. Manipur government has been on dilemma for the past many weeks on whether to declare drought or not. Scientifically or officially, the state does not deserve drought situation as the amount of rainfall Manipur received till date is adequate enough for cultivation. The mistake lies in absence of proper irrigation facilities in the fields.

On the other side, the desertation of forests in the hills either for Jhuming cultivation or for settlement prevents due water absorption causing flash floods in the valley during rainy season, and helps bring in drought situations every year. Forests conservation is necessary for success of agriculture in the state. The ministry of forests is highly responsible for flash floods and droughts in the valley of Manipur.

Agricultural production in Manipur has been plagued with many ailments. In the valley, cultivating fields have been increasingly turned into brick fields, saw mills and residential complexes, thereby diminishing agricultural land. Likewise, farmers are also turning to contract works and government jobs for their livelihood. Most wanted government job among the farmers is to become Sipoys ( Police, VDF, Home Guards). It is often heard that farmers unhesitatingly sell their cultivable land in order to purchase government jobs. The installation of VDF (Village Defence Force) by the state government has increasingly made many young farmers gunmen. Those who used to live on fishing in the Loktak lake, those who reared livestock and cultivated in the fields have become salaried security-men in this modern welfare state of Manipur. Many others have become sub-contractors for the various constructions behind the local MLAs and Ministers. Hence, productive forces have dwindled considerably giving way to boosting demands on services sector.

Agriculture is an important department as far as India is concerned. There are many projects and programmes under this department. This sector has been feeding millions and millions of human beings in the country. This is the heart and soul of poor farmers who are in majority. In Manipur, the importance of Agriculture ministry is heard only during times of scanty rainfall. Agriculture is not usually in the news. The state government does not prioritize this sector, contrary to the expectations of the huge number of farmers. Moreover, there seem to have no proper link between forestry, irrigation and agriculture sectors.

As the farmers are usually poor and uneducated, some officials of the agriculture department feel it easier to stockpile wealth at their cost. Huge amounts pumped in for numerous schemes and projects do not reach the fields. People acknowledge the amassing of huge public money by some officials of agriculture department in Manipur at the cost of poor farmers. Erections of nice and costly buildings and owning of inappropriate assets by officers of the department stand testimony to this fact. Considering the pathetic state of the farmers, the state vigilance department may put an eye on wealthy officials of the agriculture department. The state government may also pay due attention on the private properties of some officials of the department who are supposed to be friends and guides of the poor farmers.

People of Manipur particularly the farmers will meet the same fate every year as long as the ministries of forests, Irrigation and Agriculture do not work collaboratively. Water is a gift of nature. Forests have to conserve water and supply to the inhabitants for the whole year. Proper irrigation has to feed this water to the fields while there are no rains. The Forests Ministry and the Irrigation Ministry need to wake up at the call of farmers in the field.