ARANGUEZ farmers, led by a pundit with advice from a former People's Partnership government minister, have formed themselves into a group and are promising to take WASA to task for seizing farmers' pumps and charging them for illegally extracting water.
The farmers insist the water they are using to wet their crops during the harsh dry season is from either drains or retention ponds set aside for such irrigation purposes, and not from water belonging to the state utility.
The group of farmers, calling themselves the Aranguez United Farmers Association, is being led by Pundit Satyanand Maharaj as president. Other executive members include Mukesh Rampersad, Azir Hosein, Seetoy Singh, Anton Mohan and Tony Ramoutar.
Devant Maharaj, former agriculture minister during the Kamla Persad-Bissessar regime, is a special governance adviser to the new group. Attorneys Stephan Ramkissoon and Keil Tacklalsingh are legal advisers.
A press release sent yesterday by the group said it established a mandate to improve farming conditions and be a facilitator for best farming practices. The organisation aims to address the majority of issues of the farming sector, which include land tenure, infrastructure development, labour, marketing, praedial larceny and financing.
Over 50 farmers attended a meeting last week at which a decision was made to form the group. Many more farmers, the release said, pledged their support for it.
Its first order of business will be to gather tomorrow outside the Port of Spain Magistrates' Court to support the farmers who will be in court to answer charges of illegal extraction of water, laid by WASA police. The group claims these charges laid by WASA are wrong.
Last week, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat sided with the farmers as he called on WASA to show a little more understanding and give errant farmers forms to apply for permission to extract water.
Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte has defended WASA and its supplemental police force for carrying out the exercises in Aranguez and Arouca during which farmers' equipment, including pipes and pumps, was seized and summonses issued to several farmers.