Meltdown

Till a couple of decades ago Bangalore was a sleepy city -- running to the rhythm of old trading networks and retired people taking their evening constitutionals. All that changed when the city became the Silicon Valley of India. Invaded by technological giants and the ubiquitous techies, the urban culture changed -- became hip and happening. Unfortunately, the city's infrastructure did not change fast enough. Certainly it did not change fast enough for those who were being displaced by the information revolution. Bangalore city started devouring surrounding villages, stretching basic facilities like sanitation and water supply. Mobility became the focus of skewed infrastructure development. Money is now going into flyovers, new mass transit systems and road widening, without much thought about the appropriateness of these ventures. The proposed international airport, the subject of some controversy, threatens to take over a massive amount of land without adequate recompense for the displaced. The bigger problem is that as the city has grown, it has eaten up its natural drainage channels and the source of its water requirements. A wide network of lakes in Bangalore was important sources of water supply -- they are now either repositories for sewage or have been developed for real estate projects. The same goes for wetlands and open areas outside Bangalore. It should hardly cause surprise that Bangalore experienced major floods last year -- ironically they derailed transport sector projects, which will no doubt, over the years, further imperil the city. This paradigm of urban development is, however, not new. It holds true for all the major cities in the country. But Bangalore's special problem stems from a monopolistic situation. Skewed development has been made worse because it has been powered by the needs of one sector -- information technology (it) -- that consumes resources without significantly contributing directly to the local economy in terms of, say, employment and income generation. Because it is so preponderant, the political class has genuflected to it more than in situations in which the space for negotiation is greater because of the existence of competitive interests. This has created a situation in which representative institutions have been subverted and private players have insinuated themselves into the decision-making process. The widely-publicised spat between Infosys chief N R Narayana Murthy and Janata Dal (Secular) leader H D Deve Gowda is an indication of the tensions underlying the relationship between the it industry and the context in which it flourishes. Nidhi Jamwal takes a tour of a blocked circuit called Bangalore.

 
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015 | 21:11:47 PM

Meltdown

-- Stunted stunt
Driven by IT, plagued by it
Bangalore's growth has been exponential, both in terms of population and its urban sprawl. The problem is that its urban infrastructure hasn't grown at anything like the same rate, and development priorities have been skewed by the city's excessive reliance on it. That means limited resources goes into developing facilities that favour the it sector, but does not address others' needs, especially the poor.

The city's population has already touched 6.5 million, with a daily floating population of 15 lakh, and the projections for the next decade don't create grounds for optimism (see map and table : How far can you go?). At present Bangalore spreads over 500 sq km. If current projections are correct, Bangalore will spread over 1,000 sq km by 2011 and cross 1,500 sq km area by 2025 to accommodate a 10 million-plus population.

Along with Bangalore, its 10 satellite towns -- Anekal, Channapatna, Devanhalli, Dodballapur, Hoskote, Kanakapura, Magadi, Nelmangala, Ramanagaram, and Vijayapura -- are also exploding. Between 1991 and 2001, their population growth rate has ranged from 15 per cent to 57 per cent.

Tech highway
Much of Bangalore's growth has been driven by the it revolution. The United Nations Development Programme has ranked Bangalore as the fourth best technological hub in the world. "The way the it industry has grown in Bangalore is phenomenal -- way beyond our expectations. In 1999, there were hardly 700 registered it companies in Bangalore. This grew to 1,624 in October 2005. During the same time, the number of people directly employed in this sector also increased from 20,000 to 300,000. Indirect employment is three times higher. Even today as many as eight new it companies are being registered every week in Bangalore," says an official of the department of information technology and biotechnology in Karnataka.

Bangalore today is home to some of the biggest international it sector players, including, perhaps most famously, Infosys Technology Ltd. Microsoft Corporation chairperson Bill Gates was recently in Bangalore to announce that he was setting up an establishment there. What has made this boom possible is that the state government pulled out the stops to ensure all manner of incentives to attract it companies and ensure unhindered growth. Among the incentives were: exemption from payment of tax on computer hardware and peripherals and other capital goods; grant of industrial status for lower electricity tariff; priority in sanctioning power connections; exemption from power cuts; and simplified procedures for seeking clearances from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board for using captive diesel generator sets -- the list is endless.

The state government also put in place policies supporting the growth of the it sector. For instance, Karnataka was the first Indian state to announce an it policy in 1997. This was followed by the Mahiti-Millennium it policy in 2000 with an aim "to maintain the pre-eminent position of both Bangalore and Karnataka in the field of Information Technology", in the words of a government report. Apart from giving fiscal incentives, the then chief minister S M Krishna set up the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (batf) in 1999, headed by Infosys managing director Nandan Nilekani, to "involve private sector in planning for and providing infrastructure for citizens".

Road to oblivion?
There's a lot of money going into roads and also transport -- the Metro Rail and international airport are two of the most contentious. The point is that this could be happening at the expense of other needs -- water and sanitation for everyone, for instance. But it needs the airport and it needs smooth transport. That is driving infrastructure development.

The government is trying hard to placate the it bosses, but it isn't always easy. Last year's floods, for instance, played havoc with a plan to upgrade and widen 19 arterial roads. "As per the original schedule, by December 15, 2005, 10 roads had to be completed. But that could not be achieved because of unprecedented rainfall that flooded the city," says an official of department of information technology and biotechnology, Karnataka government.

There is some degree of poetic justice in that. Urban planners and local residents claim the floods were caused by faulty planning resulting from the pressure of having to appease it. "Bangalore is a city of tanks and lakes. But in an effort to appease it , tanks are being sold off to real estate agents. Wetlands are being acquired for it expansion purposes," says Janardhan who works with Oxfam India at Dodballapuram.

According to George K Kuruvila of GKK Urban Planners & Architectural Consultants, Bangalore: "Road-making agencies do not even follow basic principles of construction. Take the case of Cubban road on which for the entire length of 800 m there is no rainwater outlet. Similarly on the main M G Road there is only one outlet when there should be at least 50."

The pitfalls of Bangalore's planning are not limited to logistic issues. A more profound problem is that it -driven planning is disrupting older urban rhythms and displacing people. Solomon Benjamin, an expert on urban governance, in his paper, 'Governance, economic settings and poverty in Bangalore' published in the April 2000 issue of Environment and Urbanization, looked at the impact of the K R Market flyover on the local economy and its poor. The K R market area used to house several wholesale trades located on particular streets: rice, grain, vegetables, fruit, flowers, paper, metal, wood, bamboo and various types of mechanical and electrical parts. Each had their associations and a range of dedicated services that ensured employment opportunities. "A critically important aspect of this dense economic activity was the access to financiers and chits or local group saving systems. Almost all poor groups had easy access to these with their trade and ethnic connections, despite the high interest rates. This allowed them to buy stocks, borrow and invest -- critical functions in a local economy. The poorest of the poor could generally find a niche to survive, make connections and progress in life... Much of this changed only a couple of years ago with the construction of the New Market and the elevated highway. Many of the specialized trades have been moved out in an attempt to 'de-congest' the city and increase traffic speeds...," Benjamin notes.

In the shadows
The non- it rhythms are going. At the same time, the problem, as some urban planners point out, is that not much is being spared by way of thought for the vast majority of people who are not in it. "In the entire planning process, there is neither any space for local people nor ward committees and panchayats. The sidelining of elected members was happening for quite sometime in Bangalore but it got epitomised when S M Krishna constituted batf, which tilted the balance away from constitutional ways of governance to co

Partnership shibboleths

-- Something's not happening in the state of Karnataka. That is because the it -driven agenda has worked, with parastatal agencies allowed to take over the urban planning process in Bangalore, to the detriment of elected bodies. The rhetoric of participation has been used to make the public passive -- that hasn't helped.

The 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments were passed in 1993, to decentralise and give an imprimatur to self-governing authorities. The Constitution mandates setting up metropolitan planning committee and district planning committees, but these have not been set up in Bangalore. Ward committees were recently set up, but experts say these are only on paper and remain non-functional. D'Rozario notes: "The spirit of these amendments was to enforce decentralisation and development planning through local governance. However, despite the implementation of these amendments through consequent state legislations, in the context of Bangalore's rapid urbanisation, what we are witness to is the further concentration of development planning and de facto governance (of areas coming under the panchayat and municipal council jurisdiction) with the urban bodies such as the bda and parastatal bodies... the State government has played truant in the application of these decentralisation processes... the State is still pursuing the policy of envisaging and implementing projects in a centralised manner with no participation of the local bodies of self-governance. These projects include the International Airport, Arkavathy Layout, the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor, and the it Corridor."

Ward or guardian?
In 1997, the Karnataka government constituted a committee on urban management to address Bangalore's problems and to suggest measures for more effective delivery of urban services. A Ravindra, then commissioner of Bangalore City Corporation (now bmp), chaired it. The committee submitted its report, 'The committee on urban management of Bangalore city', in November 1997 highlighting issues relating to decentralisation. "The urban management of Bangalore city should be based on principles of decentralisation, rationalisation of functions between the State government and the urban local body, unified administrative organisation, allocation of adequate resources, and capacity-building within the urban local body for efficient discharge of its functions," was a fundamental observation. Its logic led to key recommendations:

bda should be wound up;

Ward committees (of local bodies) should be given due status by being declared municipal authorities under Section 6 of the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act;

Water and sewerage services should be made a wing of the bcc under an additional commissioner. The board of bwssb should be abolished and bwssb staff transferred to bcc;

bcc should create a cell to deal with all environmental issues relating to air, noise, water, and visual pollution.

While none of these recommendations were implemented, in 1999, batf was set up, with Nilekani at its head. Its mandate was to "consider the ways and means to upgrade Bangalore's infrastructure and systems, raise resources for its development and secure greater involvement of citizens, corporations, industry and institutions in the orderly development of the city with enhanced quality of life of its residents". Its members included five people from the corporate sector, one from an ngo, a retired academic, two bureaucrats, and a member of Parliament. batf identified seven more stakeholders in the city government as partners -- bda, Bangalore Water Supply and Sanitation Board (bwssb), Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (bescom), Bharati Sanchar Nigam Ltd (bsnl), bmtc, Bangalore City Police and bmp. The organisation of batf and its functioning typifies the emergence of a corporate system of governance that is now being replicated in other Indian cities and has also formed basis of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

In an article entitled 'Public-private or a private public?', in the November 19, 2005, issue of the Economic and Political Weekly, Asha Ghosh illustrates how batf made inroads into political decision-making circles. "Since batf was established under a government order, S M Krishna created a new model of engagement with the government, and the batf considered itself an extra-constitutional body, working with the government...The batf members, primarily successful corporate leaders, noticeably chose to work with the municipal agencies that provide the core infrastructure for the city, and the services that most impact their businesses and private lives. The agencies selected represented land development and planning; water, power and telecommunication services, public transportation and enforcement of traffic management; enforcement of law and order; and last but not least municipal budgeting. Meanwhile, this clear bias towards urban infrastructure providers exhibited a glaring absence of representation on the part of social welfare departments, including department of education and department of health, as well as institutions meeting the needs of the poor, such as the Karnataka Slum Clearance Board (kscb)." She goes on to say that batf influenced municipal budget allocation. For instance, a recent municipal budget allocates Rs 750 lakh to the redevelopment of a defunct jail into a park -- a scheme generated by batf, and Rs 700 lakh towards slum redevelopment.

Ghosh made an important fiscal point. " In order to raise city revenue, (batf) set up a self-assessment scheme (sas) for property tax collection. To manage revenues, they instituted a fund-based accounting system (fbas) at the bmp. They created forums for citizen input with the summit and opinion polls. And finally, to implement a technology initiative for planning, batf encouraged the bda to hire a French Consortium to revise the comprehensive development plan (cdp)." fbas, prepared at a cost of Rs 1.5 crore, modified the accounting system within the bmp but cannot be replicated in any other Indian city. Experts allege that both fbas and sas were implemented not on the basis of political debate but rather via a memorandum of understanding forced on the city council. Ghosh warns that fbas "creates an opportunity to centralise management of municipal funds and allows entry to new political pressures on budgetary allocations. This takes places as increased transparency in the municipal budget opens opportunities for interest groups to access the information and pressure the bmp on budgetary allocations." Since this is an expected outcome of urban administration improvement, it is important that government helps elected leaders and general public understand these changes.

No evidence
But this did not happen in Bangalore, where two groups, Public Record of Operations and Finance (proof) and Janaagraha (whose founder Ramesh Ramanathan was a member of batf) decided to "take forward the upshots of the new system", while leaving out the local councillors. proof is a collaboration of four ngos including Janaagraha and Nilekani's Akshara Foundation. It claims to "...provide the opportunity to bring financial accountability and performance measurement into the public space and act as catalysts in the larger process of bringing the government and the public closer together". But Ghosh quotes a study by V Vijayalakshmi that found a majority of the councillors were not included and often not aware of proof. Vijayalakshmi's study concludes that, "It was taken for granted that elected representatives would fall in line, and even if they did not do so the participation or cooperation of the elected representatives with the campaign was less relevant. Citizens' participation is seen as an end in itself and not as a means to achieve effective governance, which also requires that corporators participate or are responsive to the campaign."

In 2004, Krishna made way for Dharam Singh (on his way out as well), who expressed a neutral attitude towards batf. Whereas batf's office has been closed down, the state government and the multilateral donor agencies continue to praise the 'successful' urban governance model of batf. A World Bank senior advisor observed in 2004, "The story of growth in Bangalore is unique because it is being led by private entrepreneurs from the it industry. The batf model of civil society being involved in all aspects of city planning can be a model to other cities in other countries". The Global Corporate Citizenship Initiative of the World Economic Forum also recognises batf as "one of the innovative solutions".

it industry stars are unhappy with the shutting down of batf. T V S Mohandas Pai, cfo o f Infosys was quoted in Business Standard (September 21, 2005) saying, "The Bangalore Agenda Task Force was (an) institutional mechanism to create a governance structure. Its absence today is creating frustration and raising protest levels. ... Bangalore's citizens should form groups like Janaagraha to identify issues and work with the government to execute projects. Industry is doing its bit but needs more from all stakeholders."

But Ghosh alleges that in this parastatal system, "while middle and upper class groups gain access to new opportunities for civic activism, the poor do not gain any new avenues to access the government and in fact, may find themselves further marginalised". Experts allege that government also did not create any institutional structure for accountability and to understand the implications of the batf- generated schemes.

Ghosh worked for two months with sce. "I had proposed that along with the two-year-long process of cdp revision, we should also hold public meetings to gather responses of the local people rather than waiting till the end of the process when the draft cdp is released for public comments more as a formality for mere two months. But this suggestion was ignored," she says. During the planning, there was no scope of public participation. After the report was release in mid-2005, a group of residents' welfare associations, ngos and research organisations signed a statement on September 9, 2005, protesting against the non-participatory manner in which the entire planning exercise was conducted. It alleged that in the name of public participation, bda had merely put out some maps in one central location for public viewing and comments. Activists demanded that maps must be put out at each ward office, city and town municipal corporation office and panchayat offices for public access. At present, these are being sold at a prohibitive rate of Rs 5,000 per set. Land use maps are not being made available, so no comparison can be drawn between what exists and that what is proposed. Those in the know say cdp-2015 is an exercise in regularising violations.

The voluntary sector has its own axes to grind. When voluntary groups were fighting against the top-down manner in which cdp- 2015 has been prepared, Janaagraha stepped in and conducted a series of cdp workshops, which were "too structured" and "over-organized". "While the Janaagraha effort to step in where the bda fell woefully short is extremely commendable, there is the question of the constitutional legality of the whole process. After all, who authorised Janaagraha to take up the task of collecting public inputs? ... The government is required by the Constitution to institute the requisite committees to involve ward-level bodies legitimately in the planning process, and Janaagraha, however well-intended, is no substitute for that," says Arati Rao in her September 2005 paper, Bangalore: Whither the future?

Another major flaw with the cdp-2015 is that in its entire period of two years when it was under preparation no inputs were sought from bwsssb, bescom, bmtc, etc. "Initially I tried approaching these agencies asking for their inputs but they turned around and said that cdp is bda's job and that they would comment only after it is prepared," says Ghosh. Experts wonder what use is a cdp 2015 that does not have important inputs such as future water and power requirements, waste management plans and financial projections. Notes Rao, " cdp 2015 also has not bothered to look back at the last cdp, created ten years ago. There are no in-depth analyses of how the city has actually developed, no reasons offered for encroachments on the green belt by residential properties southwest of the outer ring road and in industrial areas around Hosur Road, Banerghatta Road, Yelahanka, and Whitefield. There isn't even accountability for deviations from previous cdp. The bda and has simply adopted the ground situation as the baseline, made their inferences from it, and planned ahead."

The bottom line

Virtual realty

-- 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.

Planet satellite
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).

Arkavathi: Done and dusted
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".



Logic sorted?

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.

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