It has been seven years since the land belonging to Haveri farmers was notified by the Karnataka government for a steel plant. During this time, the farmers were unable to cultivate crop nor could they demand compensation as their land had not yet been sold.
Tata Steel and Tata Metaliks had proposed a steel plant in Haveri district in North Karnataka in 2010.
A 2009 report by Business Standard notes that the state high level clearance committee had approved the proposal with the Karnataka government providing several incentives and tax concessions. The committee had also recommended that Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) acquire at least 70% of the total land following the consent of the farmers.
The land acquisition notifications were issued in 2010. Following the notification, the farmers could no longer cultivate the 2,500 acres of fertile land.
Every year, the state government would make the same promise to the farmers - the plant would be set up soon. The seven-year wait has now been rendered useless as the company has decided to withdraw the steel plant project.
The Karnataka Minister for Large Scale Industries, on Wednesday, announced that Tata Steel and Tata Metaliks have withdrawn the Rs 15,000 crore steel plant project in Haveri.
“In the 2016 Assembly session held in October, Tata Metaliks had informed the government that the project had become unviable due to unavailability of mines and iron ore in the region. The company has requested the Karnataka government to withdraw the project and refund the money paid for land acquisition,” Deshpande announced in the Assembly.
The minister said that the government is still examining its request and will soon announce its decision. Deshpande was responding to a question posed by Congress MLA Basavaraj N Shivannanavar regarding farmers who had given up their land and not received compensation yet.
“Only companies that have captive mining rights in Karnataka can operate in mining activities. The company did not get the Union’s clearance and hence it has decided to withdraw the project,” the Minister said.
In October 2016, the Supreme Court had directed the Karnataka government to allot iron ore mining rights to captive users only. Captive mining ensures that the coal used for the mining is in the said industry for which the allocation/auction of the block has been done.
Tata Metaliks had planned to import the coal and extract the iron ore from the region, which went against the Supreme Court order.
Timeline of the project
Tata Steel and Tata Metaliks had in 2010 issued a preliminary notification for land acquisition to construct a Rs 15,000 crore steel plant on 2,500 acres of land in Agadi and Boodagatti villages of Haveri taluk.
In 2012, the State High Level Clearance Commission formally gave the project a go-ahead.
The company had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the BJP-led Karnataka at the Global Investors Meet in 2012 for the plant.
The Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board had issued a notification for acquiring 1,600 acres in 2010 and the remaining 900 acres in 2012. Since there was no progress in the steel plant project, their land could neither be developed not could any cultivation take place.
“The company did not get the mining licence from the Union government. After the notification was issued, the company did not invest in funds to acquire the land. In 2016, the company had taken the farmers to Jamshedpur to show them how the company had contributed towards making the area an Industrial town. Two batches were taken after that, the Supreme Court banned mining in Karnataka,” said the Deputy Commissioner of Haveri, Dr MV Venkatesh.
Four years later, on August 22, 2016, the Haveri Deputy Commissioner wrote to the Karnataka government seeking to withdraw the notification for land acquisition stating that the extensive delay in setting up the plant had proved costly for the farmers who had not been able to cultivate.
“The farmers have not received compensation even after seven years. The land they had given up was fertile and the notification had put them in a difficult situation as they could not cultivate. They have not yet received compensation either. In 2016, we had written to the government to lift the notification but that got shelved too,” said the Deputy Commissioner of Haveri, Dr MV Venkatesh.
The KIADB, which is involved with the land acquisition, refused to respond to TNM’s queries.