Protest brewing against move to “subvert” one-rice-and-one-fish policy in pokkali lands

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Protest is brewing against a recent government order permitting paddy field owners to engage year-round fish farming without undertaking the mandatory paddy cultivation in pokkali fields.

Those opposed to the order issued by the Directorate of Fisheries alleged that the State government was pressured to change the crop calendar in favour of the saline aquaculture lobby. The government move, according to experts, is detrimental to the interests of fishermen, agricultural workers and subsistence farmers.

Pokkali integrated farming of rice and fish (One Rice and One Fish cycle) takes place in the five coastal taluks of Cherthala, Kochi, Kanayannur, Paravur and Kodungallur in Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts. Pokkali paddy cropping has been credited with a Geographical Indication tag and is on the red conservation list of the United Nations.

As per the government mandated crop calendar, pokkali fields should be allocated exclusively for paddy cropping from April 15 to November 14 every year. Saline aquaculture is permissible in the remaining five months when salinity levels are high in the adjacent water bodies.

In a letter sent to Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary D. Raja, a group of former jurists, experts and scientists has decried the move stating that a section of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government was trying to dilute the Inland Fisheries Act and “subvert the policy of one crop of rice and one crop of fish in the pokkali lands.”

Seeking the intervention of Mr. Raja, the group demanded that the government withdrew the order. “It is environmentally disastrous to permit brackish water to stagnate in these ecologically fragile fields throughout the year. This form of unique cropping that is endemic, salt resilient, and flood tolerant is to be protected from the forages by the saline aquaculture lobby,” the letter reads.

The letter is signed by K. Sukumaran, P.K. Shamsudheen, K. Aravindashan, V. Sreekumar, N.K. Sashidharan, K.G. Padmakumar, and Madhusudana Kurup.

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