“I have four acres of land. Out of that, I have grown flowers in 15 guntas. I grow my own food, My family is independent and content now. I don’t know what to do when I lose this land,” says Shashidhar, a farmer from Ramagondanahalli. His is one among the 5922 families that will become landless for the Dr K Shivarama Karanth Layout (DKSKL) planned by Bangalore Development Authority (BDA).
Shashidhar was busy watering his flower crops, while many women labourers were busy working in his millet field. “They just intend to grab our land and push us to the streets,” he says, echoing the sentiments of most farmers who are majorly dependent on agriculture, dairy farming and allied activities for their livelihood.
Farmers in Ramagondahalli grow brinjal, various types of beans, tomatoes and other vegetables, and exotic vegetables using hydroponics and polyhouses. Some of it gets exported while some of it lands up in local markets. Many grow flowers, grapes, millet etc. They also earn Rs 1.84 crore per annum from dairy alone.
This is the story of most villagers in Somashettihalli too. About 30 villagers contribute 200-250 litres of milk every day to the local dairy, says Manjunath, an executive who works at the local dairy. Four milk coolers belonging to Bangalore Milk Union Limited (BAMUL) store about 20,000 litres of milk per day, collected from 14 villages. This amounts to an estimated income of Rs 21.6 crore per annum for the villagers. More than 3,000 such farmers will lose their livelihood when the project materialises.
The BDA notified properties for the DKSKL project in 2007, but they were not acquired until 2014. After five years of inaction, the Karnataka High Court ruled that the project was effectively shelved. But in 2018, the BDA moved Supreme Court which ruled in its favour. Thus the project got resurrected again. The project is located in Yeshwanthpura, Hesaraghatta and Yalahanka Hoblis belonging to Bangalore north taluk in Bangalore urban district.
The compensation is given to the land losers as per the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 and Bangalore Development Authority (Incentive Scheme for Voluntary Surrender of Land) Rules, 1989. However, the compensations should be paid as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
The old acts entitle the land owner with compensation equivalent to the land value, or to a part of the developed land. The 2013 act that replaces the 1894 act promises compensation four times the market value in rural areas and twice in case of urban areas, and rehabilitation. The BDA has chosen to go with the old act, for the new act will increase the cost of acquisition, and in turn, the price of the BDA sites, though the land acuisition began only after 2014.
The notices served to the villagers in Somashettihalli evaluate the land at Rs 35 lakh as per the price prevalent in 2007, and estimate a net value of Rs 84.7 lakh per acre including 12% of interest and solatium.
As this price is way below the market price, people say brokers are making agreements with the needy landowners for more money than the government price but less than the market price, to milk the situation once the layout is developed. However, a majority of landowners are waiting for the BDA to issue a fair compensation. The present market value is said to be Rs 6-7 crores per acre.
A pre-feasibility study done by a bank in 2014 demarcates only 878 acres for actual layout development. It omits all land parcels that are less than 5 acres, while calculating the land available. It also calculates the cost of acquisition at twice the guidance value, as per the 2013 act.
However, the project today encompasses even smaller land parcels. People have aired their grievances in front of Justice A V Chandrashekar Committee set up in order to issue Regularisation Certificates (RC) to the applicants. The committee regularised 1,475 constructions, 13 layouts and two group housing complexes. However, farmers did not get any assurances.
Report contradicts itself
The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report submitted by the BDA in February 2022, in fact, mentions that “Agriculture and allied activities are an enormous source of livelihood in the study area”.
The social impact assessment survey mentions the loss of livelihood as a major worry of the respondents who feared losing the agricultural lands, with 70% of them dependent on agriculture. It records the unwillingness of people to part with their lands.
However, the report shows just 1.01% of the land as cropland and 15.82% of it as having “sparse vegetation”. It makes no direct mention of agriculture in the land usage pattern.
It also does not mention any mitigation or rehabilitation measures for the project-affected families (PAF). It just mentions that people who voluntarily surrender their lands will get 40% of the developed land and constructions if any will be adjusted to this ratio, and that 300 jobs will be generated during the construction phase, where farmers can work as construction labourers.
“Though we are all dependent on agriculture and dairy activities, the EIA report does not mention the economic and social impacts of the project,” says M Ramesh, a resident of Ramagondanahalli.
“We are not dependent on the government jobs. We are earning our livelihood through agriculture and allied activities. Why does the government want to build houses on our graves?” he asks.
Worried about losing dignity
The EIA report does not quantify the crop output from the land being acquired, he says, adding that a farmer family, when loses the land and livelihood, will at the most become a gardener on someone else’s land, or a domestic worker, which strips them of their dignity and livelihood.
B Srinivas, a resident of Mavallipura, says his land would fall in the 2092 acres of land that will be acquired for the second stage of DKSKL, which has not been notified yet. He explains another problem. “Many villagers have less than 10 guntas of land (11,000 sqft) where they grow flowers and vegetables and earn a livelihood. Such people get about 3,000 sqft of land, which means three sites in a Lower Income Group (LIG) area. How do they build houses on these lands? Even if they build, what do they do for their livelihood? They will not have any other sustainable employment.”
Most people do not have savings or steady income to avail of loans in order to build homes in the developed land the BDA will give them. BDA’s own data shows that 54.3% of them earn between Rs 10,000-20,000 per month.
Though the project is of 3,546 acres, there are some land parcels denotified, inside the DKSKL plan. Villagers accuse the BDA land acquisition officers of denotifying 51 acres of land to exclude them from layout plans, citing that it is already “developed”.
Nanjundappa, a 60-year-old resident of Somashettihalli, owns 1.5 acres of land that has 1,200 areca trees, 150 coconut trees and various other fruiting and timber trees. His land was not notified originally, as it fell within 200 metres of the gram thana limits. He and many others got the first notice of acquisition in August 2022.
“I earn Rs 7 lakh per year from nursery and dairy activities,” he says. A heart patient who has not been able to get good treatment owing to poverty, now he lives in the fear of losing his livelihood.
“Why should the government take our land and give it to others? We will be on the streets as this land is our only livelihood option,” he adds. “I cannot go and work elsewhere at this age. How do I make ends meet?”
Nanjundappa says only 30 days are given after the BDA issues the acquisition notice, in order to submit the required documents, which becomes difficult due to red-tapism and bribery. There is no permission to build anything on the lands that get acquisition notices, and whatever is built is considered illegal. Power connections are not issued to such buildings.
Basavaraj, a farmer, says that tenders have not been awarded but the work has begun in many places. “People who lost land for Arkavathi and Kempegowda layouts have not been compensated properly yet. Where and when will they rehabilitate us? What will we do with the money if there is no land?” he asks.
Nanjundappa is hopeful that a compensation of 1:3 according to the 2013 act will help him buy some land elsewhere and settle down, as agriculture is the only thing he knows. Many farmers DH spoke to echoed the same sentiment.
Ramesh agrees. “They must pay us 1:3 price of the land, and rehabilitate us elsewhere to help us continue farming and dairy activities. After that they can go ahead with the layout,” he adds.