Rehabilitation rules enforced arbitrarily

Upper Krishna Project - Insight - Pavan Kumar H

Yellappa Hanumanthappa Dodmani, a farmer of Yedahalli in Bilagi taluk of Bagalkot district, knows what he is doing is ‘illegal’. “I have no choice but to ‘encroach’ into the government land and engage in drawdown cultivation as the government did not give alternative farmland,” he said. In 1999, his seven-acre land was acquired by the Krishna Bhagya Jala Nigam Limited for the Upper Krishna Project (UKP). He received Rs four lakh as compensation. He could not purchase another piece of land for that money. Now Yellappa cultivates in the government land, but he can grow only one crop. 

Nagavva Chinalkoppa residing in Gundanpalli Resettlement Centre (RC) near Bagalkot feels that she was cheated by the government as she was forced to vacate her house and farm in Chinalkoppa in Bilagi taluk. She was made to settle 45 km away with just Rs 15,000 compensation for her five acres of wetland. That apart, the government allotted a 720 sq ft plot and Rs 22,000 to construct a house. The 20-member family now lives in this single bedroom house. The members of this lower-middle-class family work as daily wagers to eke out a living.

There are thousands of people in Belagavi, Vijayapura, Bagalkot, Raichur, Yadgir and Kalaburagi districts who are facing a similar fate. Their situation is an indication of the failure of the state government in ensuring rehabilitation and resettlement of people displaced for the implementation of Phase I & II of the Upper Krishna Project. 

In the first two phases, the state government has settled the evictees in 136 RCs across five districts (No RCs in Belagavi), and a majority of these centres lack basic facilities such as proper houses, roads, drinking water, drainage, transportation and primary health centres. Almost all the displaced people that DH interacted with said that rehabilitation rules were enforced arbitrarily and without considering their requirements.

Senior journalist and activist Ramu Managuli, who has covered the project extensively, says people affected by the construction of two reservoirs — Almatti and Narayanpur — were just displaced and not rehabilitated. “Only those who could fight, who knew rules and had high-level contacts got the right compensation. Others are left with nothing.”

According to him, there were thousands of cases where the compensation amount was used up by the people years before they were asked to relocate. Officials, experts, activists and affected people say that the lack of a well-researched rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) action plan resulted in the total failure of the rehabilitation process in the UKP. 

Before 1991, there were no government rules or policies on rehabilitation. It was only after the World Bank refused to fund the project in 1993 that the union government started framing rules on R&R. By that time, phase I and II of the UKP project were in force. 

Lack of planning

After extensive deliberations, it was decided that each family displaced by the project can be given a maximum of four plots — one plot (750 sq ft) for the head of the family and one plot (720 sq ft) each to two adult sons and an unmarried daughter aged above 35. Many of those who had not attained the age of 18 at the time of notification were deprived of the benefits. There are also allegations that the rules were not enforced uniformly. 

The government created Bagalkot Town Development Authority (BTDA) in 1984 to relocate the displaced people of Bagalkot town while the villagers were left high and dry as the R&R department which had initially rehabilitated them delegated the responsibility to gram panchayats which had little or no money for this. 

Padma Vijapur, a resident of Fort area in Bagalkot city, which will submerge in the third phase of the project, says that they do not want to leave their century-old house for which they will be getting Rs five lakh compensation. “My husband has 10 siblings and all of them are claiming a share in the property. If we divide the compensation amount, the share amount will not be sufficient to pay advance for a rented house also,” she said.

A majority of the Bagalkot city evictees and the rich have received compensation and plots (not as per rules though), but marginal and illiterate farmers in rural areas are feeling back-stabbed. Maliyappa Mallappa Gulvar, a dweller of Murnal RC near Semikeri, says a majority of the 200 families which were rehabilitated at that RC were farmers and farm labourers.

The dearth of jobs is one of the most worrying factors for the displaced people. There are hardly any small-scale or cottage industries near these centres and with no farmlands left, the people have no employment. Though the R&R action plan had made it mandatory to implement an income generation scheme for the displaced people, the process has not been streamlined.

Most of the youths pursued ITI courses after the government assured 5% reservation for them. However, with no avenues available, many are working as construction labourers. 

The loss of jobs is not affecting just the rural evictees but also urban people. Though families of Bagalkot city shifted to Navanagar, most of them have to scuttle between Old Bagalkot and Navanagar as their workplace has not been shifted.

BTDA had acquired 5,300 acres of land for settling displaced people from Bagalkot city. Of the total land, rehabilitation work was taken up on 4,800 acres while the remaining land was diverted for construction of a horticulture university and a food park. BTDA requires another 2,100 acres to rehabilitate people who would be displaced in Phase III. So far, they have acquired 1,600 acres. However, to compensate the displaced people, the government requires funds anywhere between
Rs 53,000 crore to Rs 65,000 crore. 

Officials claim that allotment of plots for people displaced in phase I has been completed and 65% of the people have constructed houses and settled. While plots have been allotted to phase II evictees, rehabilitation has not begun yet.

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