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Four farmers offered 120 acres for compensation
Approximately 120 acres of land in Piarco has been offered to four D’Abadie farmers, whose crops were bulldozed last month by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). The farmers Deochan Sampath, Jason Kanick, Arjoon Debisingh and Vinda Maharaj looked at the proposed site, located on the western end of the old airport runway in the presence of Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal, Food Production Minister Vasant Bharath, Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar and president of the Agricultural Society of T&T Dhano Sookoo. On Easter Monday, HDC demolished several acres of crops at Pineapple Smith in D’Abadie and Egypt Trace, Chaguanas which led to a series of protests and calls for Moonilal to apologise and even resign. In their brief talks with the ministers, the D’Abadie farmers questioned if the HDC could build the housing estate in Piarco. “We did not get a response to that question when the matter was raised,” said one of the four farmers.
Following a private discussion with the farmers and ministers, Bharath promised to take to Cabinet in two weeks the issue of land tenure to give farmers some peace of mind. Compensation for uprooted crops, Bharath said will be paid at market prices. By tomorrow, Bharath said the figures for compensation should be on his desk. Assessment for compensation, Bharath said, was done by his ministry and the affected farmers, which he promised will be fair and transparent. Moonilal said compensation and relocation are done within a policy framework by the Government. “However, if crops are destroyed or cleared because of a public good, there is compensation, and the building of homes, of course, that is a public good.” Moonilal said once the D’Abadie farmers have shifted location, the HDC will begin construction of its housing estate, which should be completed in two to three years’ time with one year being allowed for allocation.
“There is no immediate rush at this moment because we have an on-going process of dialogue. The farmers have been very understanding and reasonable in the circumstances. We will hold our hand and let the process takes its time. We are happy that the matter has concluded this way.” Moonilal credited Prime Minister Kamla Persad- Bissessar for halting the bulldozing of lands and helping reach an amicable resolution. Piarco was the second proposed site the ministers had toured yesterday. The first was Soogrim Trace, Jerningham. Moonilal also gave the assurance that bulldozing of farmers’ land will not happen again saying that “this is not a competition between any sector or sectors.” Moonilal made it clear that there has always been a joint national objective between ministries. “So the farming community will be in the best position to deliver on their mandate to feed the nation, while the HDC will ensure that we house the nation. I think it is a win-win situation we have arrived at.” He said that a consultative approach will be taken between the HDC, Food Production Ministry and farmers in acquiring farm lands earmarked for housing in the future.
On Tuesday, Moonilal said the HDC, officials from the Food Production Ministry and farmers’ representatives will make a site visit in Princes Town- another area earmarked for housing in an attempt to have dialogue with persons occupying those lands. Bharath said in both instances, the farmers have agreed in principle that the proposals of compensation and relocation have been “Accepted with no grudges borne. They come to realise that this is in their best interest.” He said Piarco was ideal because of its location and easy access. With regards to the land in Piarco, Bharath admitted that there was one problem— flooding, promising that by early next week a team will be out to look at the land and try to mitigate the flooding. “The ministries will move swiftly to bring this matter to an end,” Bharath said.
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