21 villages along the banks of River Krishna sink again

21 villages along the banks of River Krishna sink again

A tractor navigates on an inundated road 5 km away from to the fully submerged Darur village in Athani taluk of Belagavi district. Finding land for the rehabilitation centres to shift the residents of the 21 villages continues to remain a challenge. DH Fi

Residents of 21 villages along the banks of River Krishna had to bear the brunt of the floods again, despite State government approving a rehabilitation and resettlement scheme worth Rs 555 crore, more than 13 years ago.

These villages were identified as vulnerable when the Hipparagi Barrage project was under construction.

Most of the viral images of the completely inundated villages along the banks of River Krishna are from these areas, which the Centre has identified as the largest affected area in Karnataka due to irrigation projects displacing more than 80,000 people.

Noting that these villages - under ideal conditions - should have been shifted at least a decade ago, residents blame the government for the tragedy as the rehabilitation scheme had several flaws. Authorities say that though compensation was distributed, villagers hadn’t shifted as finding land for the rehabilitation centres remained a challenge.

Four taluks

The affected villages are located in four taluks - Jamakhandi in Bagalkot district, and Athani, Raibag and Chikkodi in Belagavi district.

Speaking to DH, Mahaveer Halur, a lawyer and resident of Darur - among the villages identified for shifting - said that a government order in 2006 had identified few villages which increased to 21 in a revised order issued in 2009. 

“After the order, the government released Rs 27 crore for around 800 houses in Darur. About 500 other residents, mostly living on agricultural land and a few in the villages did not receive relief. Only houses within a village boundary and with the village panchayat register number were considered,” he said.

While the cash component of the rehabilitation and resettlement scheme was distributed to several beneficiaries in 2011, alternate plots are yet to be identified.

Survey required

Ashok Galatagi, a resident of Hulagabali, said that rehabilitation would have been successful if the affected villages were surveyed rather than relying on the old records of the gram panchayats. “It would have ensured that all the affected population is identified,” he said.

An official of the Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Limited, under the condition of anonymity, said that while compensation was paid to most residents, “land was identified to rehabilitate only three villages. However, title deeds are yet to be distributed even there.”

According to B R Rathod, Executive Engineer, Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Hippargi Barrage project, acquiring land to construct 12 rehabilitation centres of the affected villages was a challenge. “It is difficult to acquire land as most of it is fertile and irrigated. Even the land acquired could not be used as locals approached the court and brought a stay against constructing rehabilitation centres,” he said.

Apart from rehabilitation, five villages had to be extended to prevent parts of them from submerging. As of now, only two of the 12 rehabilitation centres are complete and three of the five village extensions are complete, he said.