Insecure land

The chief lesson that arises from the current struggle of the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), also known as Gandhi Krishi Vigyan Kendra, is that the greed for land that was so far limited to land sharks, politicians and their progeny has now infected institutions. The sprawling GKVK campus, with its 1,380-acre expanse of carefully nurtured patches of pristine nature and specialised research areas, is an ecosystem in itself. It hosts a large variety of vanishing strains of foodgrains, fruits, over a dozen species of mammals, reptiles and close to 200 bird species. It is Bangalore’s largest lung space now wheezing under the pressure of urbanisation.

The university’s past vice-chancellors have spoken eloquently about the stupidity of trying to meddle with such a precious repository of greenery. The university, which originally came up in Hebbal, was shifted to its present location as the city expanded. Even at its new location, various institutions, albeit claiming to pursue scientific research, have already nibbled away a part of it. The sprawling campus is now coveted by various organisations for purposes that have nothing to do with science research, such as housing, roads and so on. A BBMP commissioner, who quit under a cloud, set in motion the current attack on the UAS last March by encroaching on a part of the campus to build a road, which the Palike has now disowned and has even spoken of taking action against the official.

Thanks to the brave initiative of the UAS’s VCs, who were supported by well-meaning citizens concerned for the protecting the biodiversity hotspot, the government has taken note of the resistance to the unprincipled hunger for land and natural resources that seems to symbolise contemporary Karnataka. The chief minister has temporarily reprieved the university campus from the land sharks within the government, as well as residents of localities around whose selfish desire to have roads overlooks the long-term dangers of devastating the city’s green lung. The judicial community, which is demanding a part of the campus for a housing layout for judges, should extend its concern for environment that is evident in many judgments on different issues, to saving the campus.

The judges, more than others, should know the ramifications of setting a precedent. If they insist on partaking some of the UAS land or of the veterinary university for their housing, what moral justification would they have to deny similar encroachments elsewhere?

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