MARGHERITA, Aug 14: The Satra Mukti Sangram Samity, an umbrella organisation of the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, has vehemently opposed the state government’s plans for palm oil cultivation in the region. Instead, the organisation advocates for focusing on mustard oil cultivation, emphasising the significance of maintaining Assam’s rich agricultural heritage.
Pappu Dutta, the working president of the central committee of Satra Mukti Sangram Samity, expressed their unwavering determination to contest the decision of cultivating palm oil in Assam. The organisation questions the rationale behind the choice to pursue palm cultivation in the north-eastern states, especially when countries like Indonesia and Sri Lanka have already banned it.
Dutta highlighted Assam’s diverse agrarian landscape, boasting paddy fields, tea plantations, a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbal medicines, and crops like sugarcane and jute. The organisation fears that converting this fertile soil into palm oil plantations would jeopardise its productivity and turn it into an arid desert.
The state government has granted permission to several companies, including Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Foods Limited, to cultivate palm oil across 18 districts in the initial phase. Dutta cited an agreement signed in 2022, wherein Patanjali Foods Limited is slated to cultivate palm oil in Tinsukia, Golaghat, Nagaon, Kamrup, and Goalpara districts. The government envisions expanding this to two lakh hectares of land by 2025-2026.
However, critics fear that such extensive palm oil cultivation could lead to dire consequences, including water scarcity, biodiversity loss, and unfavourable impacts on human health. Over 117 prominent scientists have raised concerns about palm oil cultivation’s environmental and health impacts in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Dutta underlined the massive water requirements of palm trees, explaining that each tree consumes about 300 litres of water per day. He also highlighted the higher groundwater levels in the north-eastern states and the potential risks to this valuable resource due to palm cultivation.
The organisation suggests that the state government should foster a farmer-friendly environment, supporting paddy cultivation to occur thrice a year by providing necessary resources and equipment free of charge. The Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti advocates for the well-being of the farming community and prioritises sustainable agricultural practices.
Satra Mukti Sangram Samity proposes directing resources towards mustard oil cultivation rather than palm oil, emphasising the need for environmentally friendly solutions. The organisation questions the allocation of land to outside businessmen like Baba Ramdev for palm oil cultivation, especially in the context of safeguarding indigenous people’s land rights.
The organisation criticised the state chief minister for the decision to cultivate palm oil without a thorough environmental review. The Samity warned of a robust democratic movement against the government’s decision if it remains unchanged.