We were victims of deception, Nice land losers lament
Public meeting of the project-affected held on the direction of Lokayukta Court
With anger writ large upon their faces, hundreds of people affected by the Nice project trooped in for the public meeting held at Central College Senate Hall on Wednesday. Social activist T J Abraham had convened the meeting on the direction of the Special Lokayukta Court to gather information from the land losers.
The incessant rain did not deter the people who came with all the documents, to explain their position and gather more information so as to file cases in the courts again.
Painful stories emanated from many.
Thrown out of their homes, seeing their shelters razed to the ground, families out on the streets, threatened by goons, misled by their leaders and the list went on.
Siddalingaiah, who had purchased a revenue site and constructed a house in 1988, was unceremoniously thrown out. “We had not agreed to part with our land. Eighteen house owners were arrested by the police on a morning, taken near the Jnanabharathi forest area, so that no one knew where we were and hence could not seek bail.
We were later confined in jail for three days. In the night, our homes were demolished and all our household articles and furniture were thrown on the streets. My wife and children had nowhere to go and were sitting on the road. About 500 policemen were deployed for protection during demolition,” he recalled.
Another houseowner, Harish, was issued a notice for land acquisition, after he had already taken a loan and began construction of his house. “With difficulty, my wife and I managed to obtain a loan and construct a house. Now they want to demolish it,” he fumed.
These are the residents of three layouts - Bagegowda, Hoskerehalli 71/4 and Pramod Layout - spread over around 25 acres where Nice has constructed a tollgate, next to PES Institute of Technology (PESIT).
Showing photos, another homeowner claimed there was no need to acquire their properties as there was no road, but just an expanse of vacant land.
“We are not opposed to any project that benefits the people. But all kinds of illegalities have been committed here. The actual alignment came near PESIT College, so they changed it. They are not even using the land they have taken from us. When we asked why they need the land, the response we got from Ashok Kheny’s people was that it was their property and they would build a toilet if they wished to,” an agitated Manjunath said.
Ironically many people complained about one Subbu Krishna, who had gone against the tide and willingly handed over his land and saw his property demolished.
Nice allotted him an alternate site in a nearby area. Then he received a notice for acquisition of that site too. He was also present at the public meeting, as he wants to fight Nice now. But his presence did not go too well with the others, who harangued him for ‘selling out.’
Many of them attend the magistrate’s court as many as four times a month since Nice has filed trespass cases against them. “I have been charged with trespassing because I was sitting in my own house,” Narendra Kumar said with disgust.
Adding to their vexation is the pittance that was offered as compensation. Most of them have not claimed the amount. “They offered Rs 50,000 for 1,200 sq ft. This is when the going rates here, even with all the controversy attached to it is about Rs 4,000 per sq ft,” Harish commented.
Another point raised by many was the misguidance by lawyers and government officials.
Ramachandrappa, who lost 22 acres of land, was paid a mere Rs three lakh per acre. The land fetches Rs three crore at present. “We were constantly told that there was no provision to go to court. We have been mislead every step of the way,” he said.
Kamala who owns more than 13 acres of land on Kanakapura Road lost 26 guntas to the road. But she is worried over seven acres of her property that the Nice has been eyeing.
“Kheny’s instrument is corruption. He is joined by the bureaucrats and the government in this,” she said stoically. Nice, which has no ownership right over the property, has already entered into a joint development agreement with Umang Developers in violation of all rules.
CBI probe to be sought
Advocate A K Subbaiah said that they might seek the Court’s nod to hand over the probe into Nice irregularities to Central Bureau of Investigation. The Lokayukta police also work under the government. So we would prefer a CBI probe,” he said.
On being asked about the next step if Nice seeks quashing of the probe in the High Court, Abraham contended that Nice could not challenge the decision to hand over the investigation to Lokayukta police, as they themselves had stated in a contempt petition filed against the government, in the Supreme Court that they wanted Lokayukta to supervise the project. Material for 600 cases were submitted on