The Karnataka government and the central government have reportedly diverted more than 10,000 acres of land for mega projects, Amrit Mahal Kaval Hitarakshana Haagu Horata Samithi, an NGO, has claimed.
Farmers in and around Amrit Mahal Kaval of Challakere Taluk in Chitradurga district of Karnataka, who largely depend on grasslands for their living, recently took out a rally to protect the 10,000 acres.
The land is believed to have been diverted to public and state sector entities like DRDO (5,000 acres), BARC (1,600 acres), ISRO (750 acres), IISC (2,000 acres) and Karnataka Housing Board (300 acres), and Sagitaur Solar Ventures Pvt. Ltd (1,000 acres) and other private sector companies for setting up projects.
Spread over four lakh acres, Amrit Mahal Kavals were set aside for grazing pastures to support the livelihood of thousands of pastoral families during independence. But down the years a large part of this land has been diverted to many purposes by the state government, leaving less than 30,000 acres of Kavals in the entire region.
Out of 30,000 acres, the Karnataka government, since 2009, has been proposing a number of industrial, defence, infrastructure and institutional investment projects.
Some of the major projects coming up in these Kaval grasslands are a weaponised drone testing and manufacturing facility by DRDO, a nuclear fuel enrichment plant by BARC, a synchrotron by IISc, a space applications centre by ISRO, a solar power plant by Sagitaur Ventures Pvt. Ltd, and various industrial and infrastructure developments projects, both Indian and foreign.
“Around 10,230 acres of Kaval land constituting the largest stretch of semi-arid grasslands were distributed to these projects by the government. The companies have started erecting walls and laying foundation stones also,” G. Hanumantaraaya, Secretary, Amrit Mahal Kaval Hitarakshana Haagu Horata Samithi, told Projectmonitor.
He stated that once construction work on these projects began, it was likely that the companies could require more land for expansion, which again the state government would divert, resulting in no land for the villagers.
The villagers with the help of the Samiti have filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court and before the National Green Tribunal. The latter constituted a fact finding committee which submitted its report on July 29, 2013, in favour of the government.
The villagers are demanding the suspension of then Chitradurga Deputy Commissioner Aditya Amlan Biswas, currently acting Deputy Commissioner of Bellary, for fabricating documents and illegally diverting the Kavals; withdrawal of the fabricated documents; and return of the Kavals to the people. They have also asked Karnataka State Pollution Control Board not to give any consent to DRDO, BARC, ISRO and others.
Karianna, President of the Samiti told Projectmonitor that Bhabha Atomic Research Centre had allegedly started drilling bore wells which had been observed by the villagers.