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What really is happening is that they are trying to kill us and future generations with all these. ...SHAME SHAME
It has an insatiable appetite for land. On the outskirts of the city, agriculturists are being forced to sell their land at throwaway prices. Either, the government acquires it or private players get into the speculative game. The operation is orchestrated. The state government first notifies a large swathe of territory, usually agricultural, for acquisition, to execute a project in the public interest. Land is often notified, as we shall see, without proper estimates about project requirements. That counts as a bonanza for land sharks.
Farmers have no choice but to sell their land. The price offered by government agencies like the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (kiadb) is low compared with the going market rate. Real estate agents offer slightly better deals -- even then its way below the market rate, especially when the owners of the land would rather cultivate it than sell and go work in a factory. "Farmers have no choice and are being exploited by all and sundry. Real estate agents already own 50 per cent of the Sarjapur Outer Ring Road area near Bangalore that is at present in the middle of an it boom," says K Jagannath, former chairperson of Bellandur gram panchayat, near Sarjapur Outer Ring Road.
Bellandur exemplifies how Bangalore has eaten into its rural belt to accommodate it. Located in Bangalore south taluka, it was a rich and prosperous village famous for its vegetables, dairy products and fish that were supplied to Bangalore. But things started to change in the early 1990s when it began to grow into semi-urban and rural areas, such as Bellandur. Ring roads plotted Bellandur's downfall. "In 1996, the government approached us to acquire land to construct the ring road. But along with the road, it also wanted to acquire 250 metres on either side of the road along the entire 12.5 km stretch. The idea was to give it off to private builders for construction. Farmers were offered the paltry sum of Rs 3.5 lakh per acre for fertile agriculture land. We fought tooth and nail but could not stop the road project. This road has changed our life. Along with it came other huge development projects for the it industry -- office complexes, residential colonies, shopping malls, etc. Bellandur tank is polluted with sewage and there is hardly any farming left. Instead villagers have haphazardly constructed ugly four-storey houses and rented these out. Migrant labourers teem in the five villages falling under Bellandur panchayat," says Jagannath.
The population of these five villages has increased from 3,500 in 1992 to 7,500 in 2002 and is estimated to have crossed 1.5 lakh in 2004. According to Jagannath hardly 5 per cent of the people are original inhabitants, most of who have moved out. Bellandur is facing acute air pollution and unsanitary conditions due to ongoing construction activities.
A quick drive along the Bangalore-Whitefield road, along which Bellandur falls, explains Jagannath's point. Plush glass buildings with manicured gardens housing big it companies like Intel and Accenture stand in sharp contrast to villages like Bellandur. Village panchayats have no control over projects that get cleared by high-powered committees. "I am fanatical about 73 rd and 74 th amendment that give powers to panchayats and municipalities. The Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Act, 1966, is unconstitutional, as it gives enormous powers to the state government to acquire any piece of land for industrial purposes. Government should know its priorities. Is a gym for it sector employees more important than farmland of 20 farmers?" asks Manu Kulkarni, a Bangalore-based environmentalist.
Villagers allege that the area was rich agriculture belt, which was declared residential as per the Comprehensive Development Plan (cdp) 1995. No consultations were held with the farmers. With Kulkarni's help, they were successful in driving out Infosys, which had plans to acquire over 48 ha land in the Bellandur wetlands. But they could not withstand the it boom. In spite of being a gram panchayat with a revenue collection of Rs 3.45 crore per annum, it cannot plan for its villages (see interview : School for scandal).
The situation isn't any different in Yelahanka and K R Puram hoblis in northern side of Bangalore where the Arkavathi layout is coming up. Touted as the biggest bda residential layout, it is spread over 1,113 ha, with a total project cost, including land acquisition, of Rs 950 crore. It covers 16 villages and proposes to construct 20,000 residential sites with dual water supply lines for potable and non-potable uses, and a tertiary treatment plant.
But the project has been mired in controversy since inception. While issuing its original notification, bda was not clear about land requirements because a detailed scheme was absent. In its preliminary notification (no bda /Commr/ alao/la 9/104/2002-03) the land acquisition requirement was 1,351 ha. This later became 1,553 ha 12 guntas (1 gunta equalling 0.01 ha) by issuing an erratum in August 2004 gazetted on September 16, 2004. Some jurisdiction questions were raised against bda because of which in the final notification land requirement came down to 1,113 ha. bda then invited applications for site allotment and received 2,32,000 applications for a layout of only 20,000 units. It has already collected over Rs 981 crore from the applicants.
Meanwhile in 2004 some original residents from whom land was being acquired moved a single bench of the High Court of Karnataka demanding quashing of land acquisition notifications issued by bda, as it did not have jurisdiction over them. bda maintained that it was acting in public interest, as there was "huge demand from lakhs of applicants for allotment of sites". The high court in an order dated April 5, 2005, pulled up bda and clarified that it had "no authority or jurisdiction to take-up developmental schemes in Bangalore Metropolitan Area. On the other hand, the Metropolitan Planning Committee, which is yet to be constituted, has authority..." The court also took the state government to task. Meanwhile, the case went to a higher bench of the Karnataka High Court, which in its order of November 25, 2005, set aside the earlier order and upheld the formation of Arkavathi layout with some conditions.
Down To Earth visited the Arkavathi layout site recently. The situation was tense and a large police force was deployed. Displaced farmers were seething. Jakkur village has lost about 243 ha, affecting 200-odd people. "We never expected anything good from bda, but now we have lost faith in the judiciary. We have lost our land and have no money to approach the Supreme Court. Which farmer has money to regularly travel to Delhi for hearings?" asks Anil Kumar, a young resident.
Villagers allege that as against the market rate of Rs 1 crore approximately per ha and the revenue department's own guideline value of Rs 40 lakh per acre, they are being offered peanuts. "For dry land the government is offering Rs 10,50,000 per acre and for cropland mere Rs 11,50,000 per acre. Our entire land was rich in agriculture and we used to grow mangoes, coconut, grapes, flowers, brinjal and many other vegetables. Everything has been destroyed. I had 20,000 flower bushes on which 300 labourers used to work. I will get some compensation but what about these 300 workers? They never figure in any compensation proposals and are the worst affected," says another villager.
Villagers complain that even for site allotment, as directed by the November 2005 order, only a farmer having more than 20 guntas land is eligible. The development charge for the site allotment itself is close to Rs 1.25 lakh. "We have been cheated. With no source of livelihood left, how can government expect us to pay development charges? Earlier we were promised sites on our respective lands but now bda says we will have to go elsewhere. We have not received the compensation amount, which as per bda would be paid after the 20,000 sites get allotted. A week back when we questioned the same to bda officials at Arkavathi layout site, we were threatened and put behind bars. They have deployed so much police force that we are now scared to even utter a word," says Kumar. On being questioned by dte correspondent about their present livelihood, they admitted to have taken up jobs of cleaners, drivers and servants in nearby plush apartment complex.
bda seems overjoyed and has already announced yet another hi-tech layout consisting of 50,000 residential units with its own railway station, helipad, colleges and hospitals. This would be India's largest such project and will act as a counter-magnet and help in decongesting the central business district of Bangalore. As per media reports, four to five sites have been studied but exact location remains a secret "because it could cause immediate increase in land prices".
Some would argue that places like Bellandur and Arkavathi layout are bound to face these 'developmental problems' because they abut Bangalore. Down To Earth decided to go away from Bangalore to some villages located on the border of Bangalore urban and Bangalore rural district, about 30 km from Bangalore city. Here the fate of five villages in Bangalore north taluka -- Adde, Vishwanathpura, Shriramahandi, Arkare and Surdainpur -- is uncertain. Land acquisition is bound to happen, but who does it is the point. On the one hand is the Karnataka Housing Board (khb), which wants to acquire over 500 ha in these villages for a housing project; on the other hand is biaapa that covers over 1,500 ha, including 370 villages and three towns. The project here is the upcoming Rs 1,334-crore Bangalore international airport at Devanahallai. At present, these five villages are under biaapa's jurisdiction.
The demarcation of the area has already invited land sharks, that are luring farmers into selling off fertile agriculture land. "The airport requires only 405 ha, why should biaapa set aside 1,639 ha? This has skewed the real estate prices. Private agents are buying land from farmers in the hope that when in future prices escalate, they will sell at a premium rate to hotels, resorts, etc," says Anita Ganesh of Samvada, a Banaglore-based ngo working in villages around Bangalore.
According to villagers, khb has already finished its land survey though no consultations have been held with farmers. "Real estate agents are threatening farmers, saying their land will go at a very low price if khb directly acquires, which is why they should sell land to the agents who then will bargain with khb officials, says Harish Adde, a local journalist and resident of Adde village. The entire belt of these five villages is rich in agriculture and vineyards can be seen all around. " khb plans to acquire about 242 ha land in Adde village that is fertile agriculture land. We will not give our land at any cost. How can state government decide on a project without even consulting the farmers whose lands would be acquired?" wonders Shivanna, a farmer of Adde village. According to Narayan Reddy, another Adde villager, water is already a problem in this area with no irrigation facility except private borewells, most of which have dried out. "Rather than helping us with irrigation facilities, government is selling us to touts. Government is offering us Rs 6 per acre but private developers have offered Rs 35 lakh per acre. At any cost, we will not sell our lands. Even panchayat is against acquisition," says Reddy. Adde claims that khb is surveying other areas as well because of lack of drinking water facilities in this area. The requirement of proposed housing scheme would be enormous. Incidentally, Adde village, whose fertile agriculture land is up for grabs, was chosen by the state agriculture department in 2002-03 to be developed as a model organic farming village in the next five years.
Vishwanathpura, adjacent to Adde, has also taken up cudgels against any land acquisition. With 90 per cent of the village under grape cultivation, the khb has plans to acquire over 200 ha. "Almost everyone in this village is a farmer and entire land proposed to be acquired is rich in agriculture with standing crop. We are submitting a joint memorandum to both the state government and khb that we are against land acquisition. We are witnessing the suffering of thousands of villagers who have lost land for Arkavathi layout. We do not want our future to be the same," says Kriyanan, a spokesperson of Vishwanathpura village.
Whether Adde, Vishwanathpura, Shriramahandi, Arkare and Surdainpur are able to retain their agriculture village status or are painfully transformed into Bangalore's satellite townships, only time can tell.