Narayanamma has been farming for more than 40 years. Having lost her family at a young age and her husband later, Narayanamma toiled on her farmlands in order to be able to raise her four children. But now, she is at risk of losing her only source of income. Narayanamma is one of hundreds of farmers from 13 villages in Channarayapatna Hobli, who have been protesting for over five months against the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB). The KIADB has proposed to take over more than 1,770 acres of fertile farmland for the construction of the second phase of the Haraluru Industrial Area.
Global tenders have been floated for several big companies to set up shop in this area. But for the farmers whose land is at risk, the setting up of the industrial area will change everything. “They are now coming to take away my land. I am not giving up my land. I do not want their money. I don't care even if I die, I will ensure that the land goes to my children,” said Narayanamma.
Farmers from 13 villages, who fear their lands will be taken away, have been protesting since April, and they don’t intend on stopping until they are promised that their land will remain theirs. They have moved their protest from Devanahalli, outside Bengaluru, to Freedom Park in the heart of the city, with the intention to put more pressure on the government and political leaders.Having pitched a tent, some farmers spend the night at the protest site, while others go back to Devanahalli and return in the morning.
Channarayapatna Hobli is a green belt, rich with farmlands that supply fruits, vegetables, dairy and poultry to Bengaluru. For many of the protesting farmers, a big concern is that most of their skills are connected with farming. They fear that with their lands, they may lose their livelihood too. “My children are farmers. What will they earn, how will they earn? How can we give up the land,” asked another woman named Narayanamma.
Narayanamma, Parvathamma and Narayanamma
Gangappa, who was among the protesters, said, “I have children and they learned farming from me, the government is taking away their future, their livelihood too.” Baiyya Reddy, President of the Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha (KPRS), said, “We are skilled at growing crops and the land is the only security they have. Those who lost their lands because of the acquisition (in the first phase) were given jobs such as housekeeping staff, security guards.”
The affected farmers say that there has been no word from the government about providing alternative employment, or even financial compensation. They also say that they were not even approached by KIADB officials before a notice was served to them in January 2022, asking them to vacate the land. The land in question belongs to 1,876 titleholders, of which 387 families stand to lose their land if the KIADB acquires it.
Those staying in the Channarayapatna Hobli say that they received a notice from the KIADB suddenly in January this year, asking them to vacate the land so that the industrial area could be developed. They received a primary notice of land acquisition, and since then, they have received no word regarding financial compensation or alternative housing.
They began their protest in Devanahalli in April, and have made several representations to state ministers and leaders, including Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, but to no avail. To add to their woes, protesting farmers allege they have also been subject to police brutality, despite conducting peaceful protests. In the wee hours of August 15, when the protestors were sleeping, the police turned off the electricity supply to the protest site and charged in. When a few of them questioned the officers, they were arrested. One of them, Pramod, sustained severe eye injuries.
A few years ago, the KIADB had acquired about 1,600 acres of land near Channarayapatna Hobli for the development of a project. However, Baiyya Reddy told TNM that those who were displaced at that time have still not received compensation and jobs. “This is the fourth large-scale land acquisition in the same area for industrial purposes. Previously, around 5,000 acres of land was lost to the international airport. The farmers then were told they'd be given compensation, jobs, etc. But many didn't get the compensation due to technical reasons or for lack of records. Those who did get it, weren't able to utilise it properly due to the lack of guidance,” Baiyya Reddy alleged.
Despite the threat of losing their homes and government apathy, the residents of the 13 villages have not lost their determination. They say they will not budge from the protest site until the government promises to return their land. “The land belongs to the farmers and must remain with the farmers. These are our demands and this is why we are protesting here,” said Baiyya Gowda.
The News Minute reached out to KIADB but did not receive a response.