Land losers in troubled waters

Those displaced by the Seabird naval project are fighting a legal battle for 30 years
Last Updated : 13 March 2012, 19:33 IST
Last Updated : 13 March 2012, 19:33 IST

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Poor land owners in the taluk, who parted with their land for Asia’s biggest naval base, ‘INS Kadamba’ (Seabird), have been waging a protracted legal battle for over three decades for fair compensation.

Though work on the ambitious project is nearing completion, there seems to be no end to the land owners’ woes; some of them even completed their journey of life while struggling to get their compensation.

“We will ensure that none of the displaced suffers,” the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had said while laying the foundation stone for the ambitious project in 1986. But the government has turned a deaf ear to the cry of the displaced.

The process of acquiring land between Binaga in Karwar taluk and Bavikere in Ankola taluk for the multi-crore ‘Project Seabird’ that claimed to provide better protection to the country on the Arabian Sea front, began in 1986-87. When the government offered to pay Rs 150 a gunta, the land owners moved the district court seeking a fair deal.

The district court in 2002, directed the government to pay Rs 5,000 an acre for the non-cultivable land. However, the special land acquisition officer filed an appeal, challenging the order in the High Court of Karnataka. The High Court dismissed the plea and directed the government to pay Rs 11,500 an acre to the land owners.

However, in 2004, Defence Estate Officers and special land acquisition officers moved the Supreme Court, challenging the High Court order.

But the apex court, in its March 28, 2005 order, upheld the High Court order. Based on the Supreme Court verdict, the district court disposed of hundreds of cases.

Challenging the district court verdict, the special land acquisition officer impleaded the Defence Estate Officer as a party and filed an appeal in the High Court.

But, the High Court upheld the judgement of the lower court.

The special land acquisition officer filed another appeal in the apex court, challenging the High Court verdict. The Supreme Court, on February 9, 2009, dismissed the appeals in 37 such cases. Weary of fighting the long-drawn legal battle, the displaced land owners have now lost hopes of getting justice, said their counsel, Lobo.

“Some of them died fighting the court cases, others have suffered mental agony,” he said.

Published 13 March 2012, 19:33 IST

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