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Khazan Land Muddle

Plan needed for revival of khazan land cultivation

THE agriculture department has decided to carry out a survey of khazan lands in the state. The survey is set to be first of its kind and has been planned to begin in about two months from now. Khazan lands have been neglected for a long time and many of them have been left in state of disuse to make them vanish from geographical map of Goa. Khazan lands, or khazans as they are referred in local parlance, are a traditional form of agro-aqua culture activities practised in Goa for centuries. Though many promises were made in the past to ensure that they do not die an unnatural death, the state authorities failed to keep their promises. Government had even enacted the Goa Khazan Land Development Board Act, 2012 for protection, development and regulation of Khazan lands in Goa. Authorities had then promised to evolve systematic and comprehensive measures for maintenance and upkeep of the protective bunds, but failed to carry the legislation forward. Let us hope that latest promise to protect khazans is kept by authorities.

Director of agriculture Madhav Kelkar has gone on record to state that no survey has been carried out on khazan lands over the last three to four decades. The survey is essential for drawing short, medium and long term plans for revival of khazan lands. According to rough estimates, the state has around 18,000 hectares of khazan land. Besides, helping in finding out the exact number of khazan lands, the survey would also help in ascertaining as to how many of these lands are being cultivated. Khazan lands thrived in era gone by but over the years farmers have been opting for using these lands for pisciculture, which offers them better economic returns. Now that the government has decided to carry out the survey, it should use the data to be collected to formulate various schemes and policies for revival of agricultural activities on khazan lands. At a time when agriculture in the state is on a downslide, the government should provide farmers with incentives to attract them to revive agricultural activities on khazan lands as also in other traditional fields.

Incidentally, the National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning, Nagpur, was tasked with completion of khazan land survey a year and a half ago but it is not known whether it actually carried out the survey and submitted its report to the government. The answer appears to be negative as had any report come, there would have been no need to carry out a fresh survey. It is pertinent to note that khazans are unique to Goa and have traditionally been owned by communities living around them. They existed even before the Portuguese came to Goa. The institutions that owned them in era gone by were known as gaunkaris (village associations) with a few farmers managing the system. The Portuguese brought them under communidade regime. Khazans were leased out to farmers through auctions, who paid one-sixth part of their income earned from proceeds of sale of crops grown on the land as rent. Given the fact that khazan land cultivation has been a traditional agricultural activity, authorities should ensure that they are not only revived but thrive in future.

It is alleged that many farmers, who used to cultivate khazan lands and continue to hold the possessions, have prevented attempts by authorities to revive their cultivation, so that they can get better returns through pisciculture. It remains to be seen whether the government would allow khazan land cultivation to die an unnatural death due to neglect. There have been scores of complaints that vested interested were responsible for breaching of bunds protecting khazan lands. While surveys would help the government collect data and frame schemes and policies for revival of khazan land cultivation, what is required is implementation of rules to ensure that vested interests do not sabotage the government efforts to revive agricultural activities on khazan lands. It is said that 75 per cent of 18,000 hectres of khazan land has been inundated with saltwater due to lack of maintenance. It is time for the authorities to come out with an attractive action plan that would entice farmers to take up agriculture and also protect khazan lands. It should also help ensure that the age-old tradition is kept alive.

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