Firing range project in Belgaum may land farmers in jeopardy

Move to acquire fertile fields faces stiff opposition

Firing range project in Belgaum may land farmers in jeopardy

Farmers from three villages in Belgaum taluk, where lands have been proposed for acquisition for rifle firing range of the Defence ministry, are up in arms against the ministry and the district administration. They have refused to part with their lands, their only source of livelihood.

The farmers have contended that lands measuring 365 acres and 11 guntas, proposed for acquisition on the outskirts of Belgaum, Mandoli village and Savgaon village, are fertile.

They have been cultivating them for  generations. The district administration, without holding any public hearing or intimating them, should not have given the no-objection letter (NOL) for land acquisition, they said.

The Colonel, Presiding Officer, Commando Wing, Junior Leaders Wing, Infantry School, Belgaum (Requiring Authority) had submitted a proposal for acquisition of 365 acres and 11 guntas land on the outskirts of Belgaum, Savgaon and Mandoli villages for the purpose of taking up activities of Rifle Firing Range on March 20, 2014.

Deputy Commissioner N Jayaram issued the NOL for the proposal submitted in accordance with the Ministry of Defence letter/circular and State government circular dated June 30, 1975, and August 18, 1975, respectively.

In the NOL, the Requiring Authority has been asked to comply with all requirements under the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, and rules which are to be enacted by the State government.

The Requiring Authority is to deposit the estimated cost of expenditure (including rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced families), which will be intimated by the Land Acquisition Officer in due course of proceedings.

Farmers unaware

Farmers unaware of the proposed land acquisition were stunned when the staff from the Revenue department commenced surveying of their lands. They found that the lands surveyed were proposed for acquisition for rifle firing range at Mandoli (254 acres, nine guntas), Savgaon (82 acres, 13 guntas) and Belgaum (31 acres, 29 guntas).

Farmer Prabhakar Kattimani, leading the protests, said their lands were proposed for acquisition arbitrarily. Neither have public hearings been conducted nor have they been informed about the compensation amount and rehabilitation measures. The lands are fertile agriculture lands and they are not prepared to part with them. Hence, they staged protests against the acquisition proceedings on August 18.

The farmers say, if the administration goes ahead with the acquisition process, they will be forced to intensify their agitation. The farmers whose lands have been proposed for acquisition have united and will put up a strong front to protect their source of livelihood, they said.

“About three years ago, 165 acres were acquired by the Defence department and we are not prepared to part with more lands. The Defence ministry has a firing range at Ramdurg village in Belgaum taluk, and there is no need for land acquisition here,” he said.

Proposal submitted

Jayaram said the Ministry of Defence has submitted a proposal for acquisition of lands, and as per procedure, the NOL has been given. Agriculture lands cannot be acquired and it will be brought to the notice of the Defence authorities, he said.

Official sources said the compensation and rehabilitation measures would come into effect once the acquisition process commences. The Defence authorities were not available for comment.

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