Farmers have been cultivating on the land for three generations at least

Another land scam in making Forest dept to take away land from people of 12 villages in Bengaluru Image: Farmers in Doddaballapura taluk
news Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 20:55

At the age of 90, Chikkanarayanappa began to walk across rows of five-foot tall cactii every day. He’s done it every day for three months now. It isn’t some belief in a superstition that is driving him but the stubborness that refuses to accept the authority of the government over his land.

Chikkanarayanappa’s field is in Bhoomenahalli village in Bengaluru rural district in Karnataka. Three months ago, the forest department dug trenches around his land to cut off access to vast tracts of land and planted cactii to obstruct movement. 

Chikkanarayanappa lost 1.5 acres of land

During the past year, the Forest Department has identified forest land in 12 villages which it claims has been encroached upon by villagers. 

Chikkanarayanappa however, says that his family like many others in these villages, has been cultivating crops like ragi, maize and sugarcane for around three generations at least. 

Around 15 km from Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, the interiors of Doddaballapura taluk reveal farmlands in the midst of difficult terrain and soil that is all but fertile.   

Trenches dug by forest department in July 2015

Rows of Cactii have been planted by the forest department.

Gangadharappa of Kavilahalli village claim that they have been paying taxes to the village accountant as Karnataka's urban ministry had tagged the villages under Bangalore Metropolitan Region Development Authority (BMRDA) Act of 1985. 

 

"We only have our grant papers as proof. We had applied for other ownership documents, like Khatha, Fani etc a few years ago, but the government has not bothered to act on it," Gangadharappa said.

Radhakrishna (42), was one of the five people from Kalkotte village who lost their land.

"It is not like our whole livelihood depends on farming on the land we own. We also do other coolie work when we don't cultivate for six months. But this land is our identity, our life. My grandfather levelled that land so that we can practice agriculture.  I have been sanctioned loan by the bank based on this land. How is that possible?" Radhakrishna says.

 The forest department has taken over the land  but allowed the villagers to keep their homes, which are often located at a distance from their fields.

"Many people in the village know only farming, if they have to move out they have to learn new skills from scratch,"he added.

Going into hiding

Speaking to The News Minute, President of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha Srinivas said, "We have a feeling that Karnataka government has a hidden agenda behind all this. They issued notices at the last moment in May 2015. Initially, none of the villagers protested. But after we formed the farmer's association, some of them have come forward and stopped the forest department from digging trenches."

But three months ago, 30 personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force were deployed as villagers of Bhoomenahalli attempted to stop the forest officials from digging trenches. Following this, the villagers have been hesitating to protest.

"The whole village went into hiding as soon as they saw them coming," says Manjunathaiah, who was one of the villagers to be taken to the police station after the forest department officials lodged a complaint against the villagers for obstructing trenching work.

Narayanappa, farmer from Chikkamuddhenahalli

Narayanappa from Chikkamuddhenahalli said, "I lost 2 acres of land for which I have grant papers. I have found other jobs in the village, I don't want to protest and get myself arrested as I have 5 people depending on me."

Assistant Commissioner of Forest Department Nagesh claimed that the department was under pressure from the government to continue digging trenches. He said so far 17 families had been affected.

"The villagers can't claim the land based on grant papers issued by the urban ministry because the forest land was never denotified when the documents were issued. If the villagers can show the de-notification document then it would have been a different matter. We can't go against government order just because villagers claim possession rights," Nagesh added.

History of de-notification scams

De-notification scams are not new to Karnataka. Currently chief minister, Siddaramaiah has been accused of denotifying 541 acres of land in violation of the Karnataka High Court’s directions. A judicial commission was set up in August 2015 to probe the alleged de-notification of over 100 acres that was to be developed by the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) as a housing layout named the 'Arkavathy Layout’. 

In 2011, 15 illegal transactions were carried out by BS Yeddyurappa during his tenure from 2008 to 2013. His family made around Rs 190 crore during this period. JD(S) president, HD Kumaraswamy in November 2010 revealed that Yeddyurappa gave away prime residential and industrial land to his family members and supporters. Two acres of industrial land was allotted to his family firm in Bangalore, his daughter got 2 acres, a residential plot to his son in Bangalore and 134 acres to his followers as mining lease and residential plots to his relatives in Mysore.

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