The poor are losing land to the rich

Dear Editor,

I want to share a story that touches the heart of most West Berbicians who know about it. Many came to me, and said, “Comrade, do something about it, fight for Bobby and Hardutt!

Bobby and Hardutt, called ‘Yann Yann’ are about to be put out from a 2-acre parcel of land at Onverwagt in the MMA Scheme. The land has been leased to a big landlord in the area, who already has some 500 acres under his machines.

Recently, Dr Nanda Gopaul, Minister of Labour and Co-operatives, spoke out against land-grabbing that leaves the “small man” landless. His remarks could very well be the story of Bobbie and Hardutt.

Since 1990 they lived on the Onverwagt Main Canal, on a piece of land measuring about 3.5 acres within the Mahaica-Mahaicony-Abary Agricul-tural Development Scheme (MMA-ADA).

They said that when they first went there, the place was “bandin,” full of bush and trees. Sorry for them, MMA-ADA sent its bulldozer to clear the place and a dragline built-up a spot for a small house. The young couple started to grow rice and they get about 100 bags of padi per crop.  They also have a hassa farm and 15 head of cattle.

Over many years, they paid MMA drainage and irrigation charges. By 1996 they applied for a lease of 15 acres of land but Roy Singh, the then General Manager of MMA-ADA, told them they could remain on 2 acres along the canal.

Now, all of a sudden, MAA officials told them they have to go. On October 30, 2012 they were summoned to a meeting. An MMA-ADA vehicle picked them up to meet Dharamdeo Seeraj of the Rice Producers Association, MMA General Manager Aubrey Charles and Board Chairman Rudolph Gajraj.

The big rice farmer/businessman was waiting in the wings as these officials told Bobbie and Hardutt that the land they lived on and cultivated for over 22 years has been re-allocated to the businessman. In fact, a lease was already signed by Minister Leslie Ramsammy.

By that time, the couple had already ploughed their land, and were about to plant a new crop. But the businessman went to the land and threatened to bulldoze them if they did not move.

More than that, the businessman immediately filed court action for possession of the land.

I have since spoken with several ministers and other officials, pleading on behalf of this poor family. Only Minister Robert Persaud seemed sympathetic, but nothing has been done to arrest this sorry state of affairs where the poor lose the bone, and the new powerful latifundistas run away with the meat! So much for the ‘land to the tiller’ dream.

Landless and homeless, the story of Bobbie and Hardutt is a tragedy about to happen.

Yours faithfully,
Moses V Nagamootoo



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