Poor farmers losing lands to shrimp farm owners

Jan 2, 2004: Poor farmers of the coastal upazila of Galachipa in the district are losing their lands to the lust of a section of people who have got shrimp cultivation flourished there for profit making.

shrimp farmShrimp cultivation, because of easy availability of sea shrimp fry, saline water, availability of land, cheap manpower and favourable environment has been flourishing in the coastal upazila. Moneyed persons are inclining to the business of shrimp cultivation at the expense of the poor farmers who are losing lands to them. The shrimp farm owners in their acts of grabbing lands for profit making shrimp cultivation are not abiding by any rules. They aided by an organised terrorist gang have started grabbing khas lands allotted to the poor farmers and even the recorded lands of the farmers are not spared.

Reports of land grabbing by the shrimp farm owners in this way have been received from Kalagachia area in the upazila. There are 600 acres of arable land in the area. Of the total, 100 acres are government khas lands. Reports have it that a vested group has set up a shrimp farm on 100 acres of khas land. In addition to 100 acres of khas lands the group has grabbed another 60 acres of recorded lands from the farmers who have no others means than these lands for livelihood.

Among the farmers, Gauranga Das (45), has lost his three acres of land to the lust of the vested group. Gauranga Das after losing everything what he had to the onslaught of river erosion has been maintaining himself and his family members with income from three acres of land for the last 20 years. The vested group grabbed his land for setting up a shrimp farm. The same group grabbed 15 acres of land of Shafiqul Islam, 1.50 acres of land each from Abdul Mannan, Swapan Hawlader, Hanif and eight acres of land of Alam Khan.

The vested group after grabbing the lands have built cross dams as infrastructure for shrimp cultivation.

Among the land losers, only Shafiqul Islam dared protest the land grabbing. He filed a complaint with the Police Super of Patuakhali alleging that the vested group built cross dams across his lands and that he in his acts of protesting has been facing death threat. Farmer Abdul Mannan informed that the group had grabbed his lone 1.50 acres of land that he as a real landless farmer got from the government allocation of khas land. (The Independent, January 3, 2004)

In December 2003, a series of violent incidents in the remote shoals of the Meghna river in Noakhali shook the nation. As reports started to pour in, it was first conceived that the 300,000 people, mostly landless peasants, in these remote shoals or char land have risen to challenge the bandits, who have long exploited them with iron fists and deprived them of the vast natural resources. But soon the facts emerged. The systematic killing of nearly 40 alleged robbers had nothing or little to do with a popular uprising. It was the local political leaders and vested quarters operating from the capital who allegedly instigated the killing in the name of cleansing the char lands of robbers,

It soon became clear why the elite city dwellers had eyed the char lands of such a remote part of the country. The area promised a huge prospect in shrimp cultivation. In May 2003, without any assessment on social or environmental impact, the government had declared 11,955.59 acres of char land in Noakhali as shrimp cultivation zone. As soon as the declaration was made public, influential quarters rushed to evict the landless peasants and grab the land to establish shrimp cultivation compartments. The nation watched as hundreds of landless families, who had long lived in those chars were evicted.

Just in those distressed days of the peasants of Noakhali chars, six Dhaka-based NGOs -- BELA, SEHR, Nijera Kori, Ain-O-Salish Kendra, BLAST, and ALRD -- moved to the high court and sought justice for the landless. The high court immediately recognised the rights of the landless and asked the government not to evict any peasants until they were fully rehabilitated. The case is also under trial (Daily Star, November 28, 2004).

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