Tuesday August 7, 2012
Modernisation not wanted
By ELWEEN LOKE
LAST Sunday, the atmosphere at Bidor Stesyen New Village was unlike other weekends as the usually jovial and carefree scene at its coffeeshops was missing.
Instead, villagers were seen huddled in groups, engaging in serious discussion over breakfast, and the topic was their village’s masterplan for the next three decades, scheduled to be implemented soon.
The farming village, which is more than 70 years old, is at a crossroad as its entire 485,622 ha of farmland has been earmarked for development and will be transformed into Bandar Baru Bidor, a modern township.
The mammoth project, to be developed in stages by the State Economic Development Corporation or Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Perak (PKNP) will include residential, commercial and industrial units.
PKNP has allocated 86.6 ha to be leased out to the farmers over a period of between 10 and 15 years.
The majority of the 270 households with 2,000 residents are dependent on farming, and news of PKNP’s development plans for the village shocked the peaceful village.
Apart from their livelihood being at stake, the villagers are also struggling to come to terms that the peaceful days at the village is numbered.
Farm worker Lim Foo Seok, 51, said, “We wake up to a quiet morning every day. Some of us go to work in the farm. Some take a stroll in the park. During our free time we sit and chat in coffeeshops.
“I am worried that the development might rob us of the peaceful life we have been enjoying all these years.”
Another villager who only wanted to be known as Chang, said the development would not only take away their source of livelihood, but also the “agriculture heritage” of the village.
Bidor Stesyen is well known for its produces like sweet potato, lady’s fingers, turnip, cucumber and guava.
Chang whose family is involved in farming hoped the state government would find an alternative area for the farmers to continue with what they were good at.
“I feel the new township will not bring much benefit to the villagers,” she added.
The village’s security and development committee head Keh Choon Seong said land was very precious to the farmers as it was their source of livelihood.
He said farmers aged 40 and below would be the worst hit, and he estimated that there were about 30 of them.
“They are very dedicated and hard workers who strive to do well in the field.
“They must be very disheartened by the news ,” he said.
Keh hoped the state government would find alternative lands to be leased out to the farmers.
While Keh hoped the upcoming township could provide job opportunities for the young, Lee Yong Wen, 17, showed little, if no interest in it.
“I want to see the larger world outside and earn a better pay.
“I can earn more by working as a workshop foreman in Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, something that I cannot get here,” said the Form Four student.
Like any other village, some of the children who left for tertiary education to cities also chose to stay on to work.
But then, there are also those who chose to return to farming in the village upon graduation.
One of the young farmers in Bidor Stesyen, is 25-year-old Edward Chai Kean Mun who has a diploma in corporate administration.
Meanwhile farmer Ling Lye Wei, 35, said fruits and vegetable farming had good business potential and this had attracted younger people to venture into the sector.
For instance, he said the vast tracks of empty land nearby the village should be leased out to farmers who already have the interest and expertise in farming.
“The empty land can be put to good use and the Government and country can also benefit from it,” he reasoned.
Ling heads a committee to address the plight of the Bidor Stesyen farmers while Chai is its secretary.