Padkai is a tribal practice of creating small beds by cutting, digging and flattening hillsides for planting paddy.
The government program raised alarm among experts from the Geological Survey of India, who had studied the Malin landslide area extensively. They said the program must be implemented scientifically to avoid a similar tragedy. Malin is one of the villages of Ambegaon taluka.
Shekhar Sarkar, former Deputy Managing Director of GSI (Landslide), said, “The implementation of Padkai should be done with care. If the selection of slopes and cuts is unscientific, then it will invite another tragedy.
Another geologist, who surveyed Malin and surrounding villages in 2014-15, said saturated rainwater could be dangerous for hamlets just below the slopes.
“Any changes to the hilly part could change the dynamics of the region. The backwater area of the Dimbe Dam receives heavy rains. So if we impede the natural flow of water on any hill, it will lead to a natural disaster. The authorities must study these aspects before undertaking massive earth-related works in these villages,” said a senior geologist from the GSI landslide division, who did not wish to be named.
District Agriculture Officer Dnyaneshwar Bote said, “We have issued work orders worth Rs 1.5 crore under the scheme so far in the three tehsils. Our officials are closely monitoring the work here.
As per procedure, if a farmer wants a particular plot to be leveled for plowing, the tehsil agriculture bureau staff will visit the location, review the geographical aspects and prepare a report, after which the agriculture will issue the work order, Bote said. .
“We also took into account the views of the experts and the suggestions made by the geologists in their report before restarting the Padkai project. If a farmer violates the program standards, they will not get the benefits,” Bote added.
Malin village gram sevak Milind Gare, who is also the village administrator, told TOI on Monday, “We discussed the Padkai program with the villagers a few weeks ago, but no villager showed interest, so no program work is going on here.
Malin has 700 inhabitants. It spans 350 hectares including the hilly terrain of the Western Ghats. Villagers cultivate paddy during the monsoon and many have migrated to Pune and Mumbai to find employment.
Vijay Lembe, whose father died in the landslide, said hundreds of hectares belonging to the villagers lay on the hills of Malin.
“Before the landslide, farmers had used earth-moving machines to level the slopes of the hills. But now the agriculture department has categorically sent instructions not to use earth-moving machinery. Anyone who violates the order will not receive financial benefits from the scheme. Therefore, the villagers refused to opt for the program,” Lembe added.
supported the program because many farmers could not produce anything because a large part of the land is on the hillsides.
Ambegaon tehsil Agriculture Officer TK Chaudhary said up to 80 work orders in 50 villages in Bhimashankar and Asane Valley regions have been supported under the scheme.
“So far, only 303 farmers have shown interest. Many do not have oxen to plow the land and informed us that no heavy heavy work can be undertaken under the scheme. Many in this belt have requested permission to use earth-moving machinery to level the ground. However, we refused permission. No machinery is used for project works across the tehsil,” Chaudhary said.
The Malin landslide changed old farming ideas
Padkai was included in the work list of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in Ambegaon tehsil in 2010.
The program creates flowerbeds for tribal farmers and creates jobs in the summer.
Many farmers in the dam backwater villages of Dimbe in Ambegaon, Chaaskaman in Khed and Manikdoh in Junnar face shortage of water for agriculture. They work on farms in their neighboring villages as part of the MGREGS.
The Padkai project got a bad reputation when some farmers started using heavy machinery including earth-moving machines to cut the slopes.
The district agriculture department did not pay enough attention to this illegal practice. But he came to the fore when the Malin tragedy took place. The government immediately halted the program as geologists pointed to faulty implementation in Malin and surrounding villages over the years.