Samwad Yatra Report, Day 51: Bellary

A public hearing was organized in Mariammanahelli Village of Hospet Taluk of Bellary district. A few prominent case studies were recorded during the hearing.

Mr. Chandrashekhar, an environmental activist from Mariammanahelli spoke about land-alienation in 5 villages of this Taluk. In 2007, 2000 acres was forcefully acquired from 5 villages for a steel plant BMM Ispat. People were made to sign on a bond paper to finalize this transaction. When they resisted this transfer of land, they were threatened with guns and were also beaten up.  They were given Rs 10,000 per family as compensation. The people organized themselves to demand for enhanced compensation and were offered 1.10 lac in a take-in-or-leave-it offer. This amount is far less than the market rate of 10-12 lacs per acre. The people approached the district magistrate seeking his support for their struggle against land-acquisition. A district magistrate who tried to negotiate for the people’s benefit was transferred. When the people submitted a strongly worded memorandum demanding that their lands be returned, the next word they were given was a notice that the land had been acquired by KIDB (Karnataka Industrial Development Board). The current situation is that a district magistrate has offered 7.5-8 lacs per acre as compensation. The people are demanding that their first preference is to replace their land with new land. If this is not possible, they are demanding compensation as per the current market rate of the land.

 

Industries in Bellary

Mr. Basava Kumar of Hulikere village in Kuligi Taluk said that out of 300 families in his villages (which are predominantly from the powerful lingayat community), 30-40 acres of land has been acquired from 15 families for the widening of highway NH13. Their lands were first acquired in 1965 for the same highway. The compensation that was announced never reached the people. He said that his family lost close to 500 coconut trees and 50 mango trees during the 1965 acquisition. His family had 20 acres before the first acquision and lost 5 acres in 1965. Today the surveyors have marked 5 more acres of his family’s land. A Section 4 notice (i.e., a public notice) was announced and this is a violation of law that requires that people be given a private notice. There was a meeting a couple of months ago with the highway development authority in which they were told that they will be compensated but the exact nature of this compensation was not mentioned. He asked us “If you take away all our lands, will you allow us to be farmers”? Mr. Hanumanthappa of Papinayakahalli village said that 250-300 families on either side of NH63 are set to lose their houses and 2-5 acres of their agricultural lands because of highway widening.

Ms. Yashoda explaining the significance of the two vessels

Mr. Nagaraj of Hospet city is one of the 290 residents of a slum in the city many of whom have been living there for the last 45 years. The residents of the slum typically work as loaders in mines, masons, vegetable vendors, owning small businesses, domestic workers or carrying out many of the essential jobs in the informal sector. They have ration cards, voter id cards and other forms of government documents. They have been asked to move out of their homes because of the expansion of a drainage sewer and a by-pass road. When they approached the local administration, instead of finding land for relocation, they were asked to identify suitable land for relocation. They are  demanding that the entire community be relocated to a single place that is close to the city so that their livelihoods are not affected.

 

Ms. Gelamma of Nelakudri village in Hagaribommanalli Taluk of Bellari is a Devadasi women. We were shocked to learn that despite the abolishment of the practice of forcing dalit women into the Devadasi  profession to provide sexual services to upper cast men, this system continues to be practiced in several villages of Karnataka. We were told that there are 2180 devadasi women in the taluk and about 7600 in the district. These women do not have land for cultivation, getting a ration card is difficult, they do not have a home and typically live with their parents, brothers or sisters. They do not receive many of the government services that they are eligible for. They work as agricultural labour for 3-4 months a year for Rs 40 per day and are forced to migrate to find work. This migration for work further exasperates the education of their children. Their children are typically harrassed and discriminated in schools by the teachers, administration and fellow students because they cannot name their father. It is also difficult to find a groom or bride for their children and hence typically marriages take place between children of devadasi women. They are also highly likely to carry out child marriages as they do not know whether they will be able find a match later in life. Typically land that is given to SCs is given to men and because they do not have a man in their lives, they do not get land when it is being distributed. They are given an antodaya card which recognizes that their marginalization and poverty is far more worse than the deprivation of those who are classified as below poverty line and several schemes were created to support people who have antodaya card. These services are being withdrawn because the government claims that all devadasi women have been rehabilitated. Even though the Devadasi Abolishment and Rehabilitation act of 1982 states that they should be given 2 acres of land for resettlement, this is not being followed and many of them are landless. The government schemes are available only for devadasi women who are over 35. The women want the government to extend the schemes to women in the age group of 20-35 as well. Ms. Manjula daughter of a devadasi woman is the only person to have completed a post-graduate education and is active in organizing not only her community but also other marginalized communities affected by the current paradigm of development.

Devadasi Women

Mr Vanurappa of Hampinakalli village in Hospet taluk said that his grandfather and his two brothers were cultivating 22 acres of land as tenants of a local Reddy family. Each brother was cultivating about 7 acres. A 1996 land-reform tribunal, in recognizing their tenancy, gave them rights over about 2.5 acres of their land. But the Reddy family acquired the 7-acres land that belonged to his father and changed the records illegally. They have been running around different government departments trying to recover their land but are not receiving any support from the government officials. RTI applications to ascertain the ownership details of their land is not helping them either.

With the Collector of Bellary

Later in the evening, a delegation from the yatra met the district collector of Bellary, Mr. Amlan Biswas to brief him about people’s problems and advocate for the resolution of their problems. We were surprised to learn that Bellary has had 150 collectors since the 1800s. It is a difficult district to work in because of the clout of illegal miners on the administration. The collector was sympathetic to the grievances of the people and had a very good understanding of the land-issue in the state. We wish the collector our best wishes in discharging the duties.

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