“Collapse of Sukinda Seeds Production Farm, Jajpur district, Odisha - a testimony of age-old State Govt. negligence, callousness, apathy and conspiracy destroying Agriculture and Farming Community”
There was series of news in leading Odia daily newspapers from October to December 2016 highlighting the movement of “Sukinda Seed Farm labourers’ Union” demanding cancellation of MOU signed among Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment, Govt. of Odisha, Odisha State Seeds Corporation, National Seed Corporation Ltd. for granting permissive possession of 270.38 acres of land within Sukinda Agriculture Farm of Jajpur district to NSC for pulses seed production programme and subsequent police action against women labourers and their leader Sri Biswanath Patra who is known Human Rights Activist of the district. Getting sensitised about series of action programme i.e., rally, dharana, demonstration and gherao in and around Agriculture Farm, it was thought of to visit the area to understand the reason of the opposition of the local labourers to National Seed Corporation Ltd., their concern about loss of livelihood and demand to protect the sanctity of the Farm. A Four-Member Fact-finding Team of Civil Society Groups had made a visit to Sukinda Agricultural Farm on 10.1.17. Prior to visit, the local people, women labourers of Sukinda Seed Farm Labourers’ Union were informed in advance about the visit of the Team. The Team members were as follows.
A. Pradip Pradhan, State Convener, Right to Food Campaign, Odisha
B. Sri Ashok Mallik, Dalit Activist and State President of NACDOR
C. Smt. Sanjukta Panigrahi, Woman Activist
D. Sri Sanjay Sahu, Human Rights Activist
The Team reached at 12 noon. The labourers welcomed and escorted the team inside Sukinda Farm. Women labourers of the Union were seen visibly waiting the Team to interact with great expectation of solving their problems. They were seen very distressed sitting in open field. After a brief introduction about the purpose of the visit by the team members, Sri Biswanath patra and their president and Secretary Smt. Khaira Mohanta and Indramani Mohanta made brief presentation about history of farm and its collapse and their struggle.
Sukinda Seed Production Farm under Jajpur district of Odisha is one of the biggest seed producing farms in Asian sub-continent. It spread over 1437 acres of cultivable land. This Farm started functioning from 1948. A good number of agriculture produces like paddy, Mucca, mustard, brinjal, tomato, groundnut, Biri, Mung, were cultivated and huge quantity of these items were produced, sold and marketed to other areas. Around three thousand agriculture labourers were engaged to work in this farm and earning their livelihood. Huge quantity of seeds was produced and supplied to different parts of the state. It was also place for research in agriculture produces. Agriculture scientists and experts use to visit frequently to this farm. This farm has name, fame and glory attracting the farmers and experts.
But the negligence and apathetic attitude of State Govt. officials to this farm started in 1990s. The agriculture farming got deteriorated. Production decreased and hundreds of acres of land remained fallow. In this situation, a private organisation started planting pamolin tree inside the Farm but got destroyed due to absence of proper care. Then bad to worse, eucalyptus plantation was undertaken by officials of watershed project which damaged the farming land. Then, Horticulture Dept. undertook plantation of mango and cashew and other fruit bearing tress which had very negative impact on agriculture. The Govt. also undertook plantation under NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Schemes). Few acres of land of the Farm was also allotted to IMFA to open private ITI College. Similarly, many of the prime land of this farm has been encroached by the local influential people.
As the Govt. neglected the Farm, seed production got reduced and the local agriculture labourers could not get much employment. Most part of the land remained fallow. However presently, few agriculture produces like paddy, Arahar, groundnut, mustard are being cultivated in the farm spread over around 230 acres of land. Around 500 laboureres are still working and earning their livelihood.
In 2009, when the Govt. tried to use machinery in the farm for broadcasting and crop cutting which replaced the labourers from agriculture activity, the labourers got organised and protested it under the banner of “Sukinda Seed Farm labourers’ Union” due to loss of employment. Due to popular movement, the machinery was withdrawn. Then the farmers demanded minimum wage and creation of provident Fund for them.
When the labourers have been demanding revamping agriculture production in the Farm, on 23.7.16, the State Govt. entered into an agreement in form of MOU with National Seed Corporation Ltd. ( a Govt. of India undertaking ) for granting permissive possession of 270.38 acres land within agricultural farm, Sukinda. The lease was executed for 15 years authorising NSC to use land for production of non-paddy seed like pulses and oilseeds inside the farm and development of required infrastructure for said purpose. The leased land in no case shall be mortgaged/transferred for other purposes. But later on , the State Govt. wrote letter dt. 24.9.16 and 6.10.16 to Farm Superintendent, Sukinda to hand over total no. 303.85 acres of land to NSC Ltd. On 20.10.16, the Farm Superintendent handed over the land to National Seed Corporation.
NSC hired a contractor farm named Gobinda Engineering of Jharkahnd state to carry out all the programme and engaged a number of tractors and huge machinery to start cultivation which replaced labourers. Women labourers were also not allowed to do any work in the farm. As NSC will undertake non-paddy activity, the women labourers who have been working in the farm apprehended of losing the employment. When the labourers were not allowed, they started opposing NSC and did not allow them to operate in the farm. Since then, the labourers under banner of Sukinda Seed Farm labourers’ Union have been organising series of movements against NSC and restoration of their employment which is the only source of livelihood. This area as follows.
A. ON 9.8.16, a memorandum was submitted to BDO, Sukinda for cancellation of MOU with National Seed Corporation.
B. On 20.8.16, Mass demonstration was organised at lower PMG, Bhubaneswar and memorandum was submitted to Minister for Agriculture and Farmers’ Empowerment for cancellation of MOU with National Seed Corporation Ltd. and restoration of livelihood by revamping the farm. The Minister assured the leaders to look into the matter.
C. Finding no response from Govt., on 24.9.16, the leaders of the Union led by Sri Biswanath Patra met Chief Secretary, Odisha and submitted memorandum to him seeking his intervention for cancellation of agreement with NSC and restoration of farm.
D. While movement was going on, the NSC tried to start the work by using tractors and forcibly entering into farm with help of police force. The labourers opposed and blocked the road in front of farm. Then, on 9.10.16, BDO intervened and called the meeting of NSC representatives and leaders of labourers for discussion to bring out solution. The meeting yielded no result. Sri Pradeep Patnaik, Regional Manager, NSC Ltd. assured to stop the work till the grievances of the labourers are addressed.
E. But NSC with help of police started to resume the work and did not allow the labourers to do the work. Enraged labourers again opposed and blocked N.H.53 road. On the spot the Tahasildar, Sukinda and Inspector of Police, Sukinda reached and negotiated with labourers to bring solution. It was agreeded that NSC will allow the labourers to do the work in the farm without engaging new labourers.
F. But after 6 days, NSC again engaged labourers of outside area and did not allow these labourers. The hundreds of labourers again organised road blockade and sat-in-Dharana in front of office of Sub-collector, Kalinga Nagar demanding employment in the farm. Dharana was withdrawn after assurance given by the Sub-Collector.
Despite several protest and dharana by the labourers, the authority of National Seed Corporation is determined not to allow the women labourers to do the work. The livelihood of thousands of the families have been affected, as the labourers are provided any work in the farm.
Keeping it in view, the team recommends to the State Govt. in Department of Agriculture and farmers’ empowerment to take the following steps to provide livelihood to women labourers.
A. National Seed Corporation Ltd., New Delhi should be directed to engage women labourers in the farm for production of non-paddy seeds as per MOU. There should be tripartite agreement between labour Union, State Govt. and NSC to ensure job security of women labourers in the farm.
B. If this arrangement is not possible, the State Govt. should allot few quantity of land to the Union to undertake paddy and on-paddy cultivation on cooperative basis. The Govt. will provide them technical and financial support for it.
C. In view of huge quantity of land being encroached by some influential people, the land of the Farm should be demarcated and brought to Govt. fold.
Report prepared by