THE farmers in Kampung Baru Bidor Stesyen in Bidor are fighting a bigger battle besides the current heat wave.
Many of them are facing eviction at any time after legal notices involving about 161.9ha of farmland were served to them recently.
“The latest is a notice from a lawyer dated June 24.
“It states that a private company in Ipoh is the owner of the land and the farmers must remove everything from the land within seven days,” said farmer Edward Chai Kean Mun on Tuesday.
According to Chai, the letter dated June 24 involved about 80.9ha of land, and the farmers involved did not know what to do.
Chai, who is the deputy secretary of the village Farmers Association, said they do not know how and where to get help.
He said prior to this letter, some people who claimed to be representatives of the company had come to the village to negotiate with them.
“According to the representatives, the proposed compensation is RM1,000 per 0.4ha and that each farmer will also be given 0.8ha of land elsewhere.
“But the representatives cannot tell us where the land is for us to start all over again.
“And we suddenly get the notice to evict,” he said.
Apart from this latest episode, Chai said some farmers also received legal letters from the Perak Agriculture Development Corporation and another private company.
The company, he added, said it was the owner of the land involved and was suing for compensation from farmers whom it said had failed to vacate the land.
Chai said this episode also involved about 80.9ha of land.
He said the farmers named in this case did not understand what was going on and they had sought help from Perak executive councillor Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon.
“We hope to get an appointment with Dr Mah as soon as possible,” he said when met at the village.
Already at their wits end battling the hot spell that threatened to ruin all the agriculture produce if the prolonged drought went on for another week, Chai said they simply did not have the energy or resources to handle the series of legal letters.
Besides, most of the farmers have very little formal education and are Chinese educated, and do not understand the legal jargon, he added.
Chai said the farmers also have to bear extra costs in their bid to save their crops, like installing extra sprinklers and paying more for diesel to run the water pumps longer.
The crops include turnips, sweet potatoes, cucumber, lady’s finger and more.
He said they had to pay an extra of at least RM100 a day for diesel alone for a farm of about2.8ha.
“For those who cannot afford the extra cost, they can only watch their crops dying. The old farmers are very careful with their life savings because it is meant for their funeral expenses,” he said, adding that many have to watch their crops dying either because they have no money for the extra cost or they dare not take the risk.
Another reason, he added, was that there was no guarantee that the crops could be saved even with using extra money to save them.
Farmer Ling Lye Wei, 37, said the prolonged drought had already ruined between 30% and 40% of the crops.
He said the farmers and workers also had to take more breaks during the hot spell.
“We have to take shelter when the heat is unbearable and return only when we feel better. During normal days, we can work in a stretch,” said Ling, a father of six.
Another farmer, Liew Yee Fong, 29, said they were also facing a problem in getting their association recognised.
Liew, also the association’s secretary, said they had been told that there cannot be two farmers’ associations in Bidor.
There was another association in another two villages a few kilometers from Kampung Baru Bidor Steysen, he said.
“We need to have our own association as we understand our problems and the hardship we face. We cannot expect others to fight for us,” he said, adding that they had submitted an appeal to the Registrar of Societies in Putrajaya to recognise their association and were hoping for a reply soon.
He said there were only about 485.6ha of farm land left in the village, with about 170 households, adding that many families would suffer if the over 161.9ha was taken away.
Farmer Chong Thiam Chai said the farmers depended on farming for a living and would be in dire straits if the land was taken away.
He said the authorities should consider their plight.
The farmers said an officer from the Perak Agriculture Department told them only the Perak Mentri Besar could help them but that they did not know how to get an appointment to see him.