Karnataka: Day 150 of protest, as Devanahalli farmers resist forcible land acquisition by KIADB

Devanahalli taluk is in the sights of the real-estate sector because of its proximity to the Bengaluru International Airport.

BySaurav Kumar

Published Aug 30, 2022 | 12:00 PM Updated Aug 30, 2022 | 12:00 PM

Farmers Protest

As of now, it resembles a Mexican standoff: Farmers from villages not too far from Bengaluru city oppose a state government move to acquire the land they till, and neither side seems willing to cede an inch.

As a result, a protest movement the farmers launched on 4 April entered its 150th day on Tuesday, 30 August, with them staging a day-and-night event at Channarayapatna Hobli village, the nerve centre of the agitation, some 35 km north-east of Bengaluru.

Earlier, on 15 August, the protesting farmers staged a silent protest at Channarayapatna — the “headquarters” of the 13 affected villages and also where the Revenue Department office is located — wearing black bands covering their mouths.

The police lathi-charged them and arrested 72 agitators, booking them for disobeying the orders of a public servant, causing public nuisance, and obstructing a public thoroughfare.

Beginning of trouble

The months-long agitation began soon after the Karnataka government issued the farmers a preliminary notification in January, announcing the planned acquisition for an industrial project.

The farmers are not quite sure what the land is being acquired for. Some say some aerospace industry will come up, while others say a defence park — neither of which is expected to generate much in terms of employment for the locals. Till today, there is no official word on the proposed compensation or its type.

The protestors say some 700 farmers in the 13 villages under Devanahalli taluka in Bengaluru Rural district will see their land being taken away. The government plans to acquire 1,777 acres of agricultural land, though till date, work on the physical acquisition is yet to begin.

“There are some technical shortcomings,” said C Chandrashekhar, an official the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB), the department entrusted with the acquisition work.

“It would take some time,” he told South First.

Land only source of income

The agitating farmers from the 13 affected villages say they are totally dependent on the crops they grow — fruits, vegetables, and millets.

Ramesh Chimachanahalli (40), who owns three acres of land, said his family’s sole source of income was agriculture. “The government’s development plan will deprive us of our land. That is unacceptable.”

Echoed Nanjappa (60), who owns 10 acres: “I grow grapes and vegetables, this is my livelihood. I don’t want to give away my land.” Plus, Nanjappa claimed, there was no consultation with the farmers and the Gram Panchayat on the issue.

KIADB’s Chandrashekhar, however, denied the charge. “Official procedures have been followed,” he said.

Land laws amendments of 2020

On July 13, 2020, the BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government passed an ordinance amending the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961, easing restrictions on both land ceiling and the buying of agricultural land.

This was done to “lure the business class and real estate sector”, said Devanahalli legislator Nisarga Narayanaswamy LN of the JD(S). “The government is giving away free land to industries to strip away the farming community of its livelihood.”

Agrees GC Bayya Reddy, vice-president of the Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha (KPRS), a farmers’ movement against multinationals such as Monsanto selling hybrid seeds.

“Devanahalli is targeted by the real estate sector because of its proximity to the Bengaluru International Airport,” Bayya Reddy told South First.

“This is why a nexus of developers and KIADB wants to grab fertile lands,” he said.

“In 2018, KIADB acquired nearly 1,200 acres of land in the name of Haraluru Industrial area but half of the farmers did not get compensation from the government. This is the second phase of land acquisition, but based on past experience, farmers are opposing any kind of acquisition,” he added.