Betel farms face threat of extinction

Famously called Ele Thota in city treads towards degeneration; growers anxious

As the city faces a threat of losing a heritage in betel plantations that dots Ramanuja road and Vidyaranyapuram area, the Mysore City Corporation (MCC) and district administration are playing oblivious to the woes of the betel growers.

The betel farms which had spread to about 700-800 acres two decades ago has shrunk to 500 acres due to the onslaught of urbanisation. The growers here are upset about the move of the Mysore Urban Development Authority (MUDA) and MCC eyeing their land for acquisition.

The MUDA has issued notices to a few farmers whose betel farms are spread till Gejjegalli.

The nearly 100-year-old betel plantations that surround the heart of the city had always been a cynosure of all eyes — as the green patch of the farm provided a lung space in the centre of the city.

Now, such a green space is seeing degeneration due to lax and indifferent officials. Though, the farms received clean water supply three decades ago, it was abruptly stopped about a decade back. The growers were told to manage with the drainage water released after treatment from the sewage farm. Recently, the farms are deprived even of this treated water.

“The betel plantations have begun to wither. We believe the authorities are doing it deliberately to stop us from growing betel leaves and nuts — a conspiracy to acquire our land and drive us away from here,” C Chidambara, president of Betel Leaves and Nuts Growers’ Association told Deccan Herald.

He said an institution has already bought a good chunk of the farm on Ramanuja road from farmers 15 years ago. Many growers sold their land for a paltry sum to such institutions. Meanwhile, the government agencies and other private institutions are now eyeing to acquire remaining land to make way for buildings, Chidambara adds.

The forum has begun a ‘Vile Dele Thota Ulisi, Sakshi Pragne Belasi’ campaign sensitising the growers in Ashokapuram and those living within the farm area not to part with their land.

“The betel farms exist here since the period of the Maharajas of Mysore. Our forefathers worked in the farms as labourers. The betel grown here was sent to the Palace,” recalls Papanna, a betel grower.

The Dalit families, a majority of them belonging to Ashokapuram, became owners of the land after the Penalty Act came into existence during the period of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

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