Farmers cry foul over land acquisition, want it back

400 acres were acquired to establish a golf course

Scores of farmers from Kochanahalli on the outskirts of Nanjangud launched an indefinite stir from Tuesday demanding back the farm land acquired from them in lieu of jobs.

The issue pertains to land acquisition between 2004 and 2007 when a private entity showed interest to invest and develop a golf course in the area. The local farmers were enticed to sell their land and promised a job for each family apart from assurances of taking up development works in the village.

The indefinite stir is backed by Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), Hasiru Sene, Swaraj Abhiyan, DSS and other groups under the banner of Kochanahalli Raitha Horata Samithi.

Tracing the genesis of the issue, the KRRS said the private entity displayed interest in village development during the early phase of the land acquisition talks. It used to offer a garland and ₹5,000 to the immediate family members in case of any death to build a rapport. Even the local school was developed after which 400 acres of land was acquired from the farmers of the area at the rate of ₹1.25 lakh per acre. Over 200 farmer families of the region were lured into selling their land for a pittance on the promise of a “permanent job’’. The private firm also conducted a programme to distribute job “offer letters’’ in which even the government officials took part, according to KRRS and Hasiru Sene.

But the land was registered in the name of a third party making it a benami transaction and it was explained away as due to “technical reasons’’, said the KRRS and Hasiru Sene.

But neither the promised jobs materialised nor did the golf course take shape and the farmers – the original land owners of the plot – ended up as daily wagers clearing what was once their own land. The farmers formed a union and approached the labour court to demand their share of regular wages. But the firm closed shop even before taking up the project, leaving the farmers in the lurch.

Since the last few years the farmers are tilling the land though it is not in their names anymore and hence are deprived of any institutional loans or government benefits.

The farmers are now disconcerted that the same swathe of land is being acquired by the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board at the rate of ₹47.5 lakh per acre and is pressuring the farmers to vacate the land, according to the Samithi leading the protest.

It said the KIADB has already acquired 180 acres of land and has demanded that the same be restored to the farmers from whom the land was acquired. The Samithi members have warned farmers of the region to be wary of any land acquisition in lieu of jobs and have warned of intensifying the agitation until their land was not restored to them.

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