Tura Lok Sabha MP and former Union minister Agatha Sangma has opposed “unilateral imposition” of the NMEO-OP programme of the Centre on the people of the Northeast region and wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The parliamentarian from Meghalaya in her letter requested PM Modi to “have a wider consultation with all stakeholders before moving forward” with the decision to implement the NMEO-OP programme in the Northeast.
MP Agatha Sangma, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Water Resources, in her letter said the Union Cabinet cleared a plan under the aegis of NMEO-OP (National Mission on Edible Oil – Oil Palm) and allocated Rs 11,040 Cr.
This is being done to “reduce the import of edible oil and downsize the import bill, which is well appreciated”, she said.
“The concern is generated when one peeks into the liner details of the program, the plantation areas so selected are the Northeastern region and the Andaman Islands both of which are biodiversity hotspots and ecologically fragile,” the letter reads.
Palm plantation in all certainty will denude vast swathes of land of its forest cover.
Loss of habitat for the endangered wildlife will have a devastating impact, she said.
“Palm tree is not an endemic species of plant of the Northeast region and large-scale adoption of a foreign species of plant which is water-intensive harvest will definitely create irreparable ecological imbalance and distort the groundwater table,” Agatha Sangma wrote.
Stating that the other concern is of socio-cultural issue, she said Northeast India, though sparsely populated than rest of India, is cloned with many ethnic tribes with their own cultural heritage and practices.
She said “ownership of land is a centrality of any tribal society which is also connected to the identity, in many cases, it is the community ownership”.
Wide-spread plantation for commercial gain in all possibility will detach the tribesman from his prized possession of land and wreak havoc on the social fabric, she said.
She wrote in the letter to PM Modi: “I, therefore register my opposition to the unilateral imposition of the NMEO-OP program on the people of the Northeast region and request you to kindly have a wider consultation with all stakeholders before moving forward with this decision.”