Hamlet that leaves you shell-shocked

Hamlet that leaves you shell-shocked


When this writer visited the hamlet, the first sight that caught the eye was heaps of sea shells next to small water bodies here and there. The fields in the village have at least five feet of sea shells. Where have they all come from? Explains Thimmappa Patagara of the village, “The village has at least 150 farmer families, each owning at least one and a half acres of land. Today, though, all their fields are ruined, thanks to heaps of sea shells.

About 10-12 years ago,  someone smelled a business opportunity when they saw that the village had abundant quantities of sea shells underneath the agricultural land. There was a lot of demand for these shells, which are used in various industries. Immediately, they bought some farmers’ holdings on lease, and started mining the sea shells. They offered Rs 150 per gunta of land dug up for the shells.

But, the miners would leave the dug-up parts uncovered. The village resembled a dug up excavation site. This caused a lot of resentment among farmers, who protested by not allowing lorries to enter their fields. This meant that the sea shells could not be transported, and they continue to lie in heaps in the village. It has been two years since the shell quarrying has stopped. The limestone from sea shells fetch a price of Rs 650 in the market today.

There are several businessmen who cashed in on the transportation of the sea shells by charging Rs 39,000 for every truck load. But, it has been mostly status quo for farmers, with all their fields being eaten into. “At one point, it was a big deal to get Rs 150 for a gunta. We had given away our lands on contract. Today, the dug up parts on our fields remain, and we haven’t had enough resources to cover it again, and restart cultivation.

There are  some farmers who have started cultivating their lands, again, though,” explains Thimmappa. But, there were still no answers to the question about how sea shells in such large quantities appeared in the village. According to Thimmappa, the village was an estuary about 200 years ago. At that point, there must have been a proliferation of sea shells here. In later years, it must have been covered with silt, and slowly got converted into tracts of land.

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