Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Another Nandigram brewing in Karnataka’s Nandagudi

Farmers gearing up to agitate against the move to let a private promoter develop an SEZ

BANGALORE: Nearly 55 km away from the infotech capital of the country, a new controversy is taking shape a laNandigram. Backed by political parties, farmers of Nandagudi are up in arms against the Karnataka government for giving the nod to a private entrepreneur to set up a special economic zone (SEZ).

The issue came to the fore when the government cleared the Mumbai-based SKIL Infrastructure’s proposal to set up an SEZ at an estimated cost of Rs 15,000 crore on 12,350 acre spread over 36 villages. Of this, the government owns 4,745 acre, while 7,605 acre are with farmers.

The nucleus of the issue at Nandagudi is the real estate potential of the land because of its proximity to the international airport -- it is 25 km away from the upcoming international airport at Devanahalli. The value of the land has already touched Rs 40-50 lakh per acre. That’s reason enough for farmers to get anxious.

With the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) is extending its support to the farmers, the main Opposition party in the state, Congress, has alleged that the HD Kumaraswamy-led Janata Dal (Secular)-Bharatiya Janata Party government has been allotting more and more land to real estate developers under the SEZ banner.

With the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre promoting SEZs, the party’s state unit president, Mallikarjun Kharge, is quick to point out that they are not opposed to SEZs, but are against the state government’s policy of “misleading” farmers and asking them to hand over their land to real estate developers.

He says there are clear guidelines issued by the Centre against acquiring farmland for SEZs and alleges that the government has been violating them. The state wing of Congress is likely to chalk out plans on steps to be taken on the issue at its legislature party meeting to be held on July 3 or July 4, ahead of the Assembly session commencing from July 5.

Though Kumaraswamy has assured the farmers that the government would not acquire the land, directly or indirectly, to set up SEZs, the farmers, under the banner Nandagudi Raitha Hitarakshana Samithi, are gearing up to launch an agitation. “It is up to the promoter to convince the farmers and acquire the land. Moreover, farmers can give the land only if they like and the government will not force them in any way,” Kumaraswamy said.

But CPI (ML) state president R Manasiah is not impressed. “Even if the promoter is ready to offer the market price, the farmers will be forced to deal with middlemen who will exploit them. This is worse than the government acquiring land,” he said.


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