Suspicious of BDA's track record, they continue their blockade of notified land seeking full compensation

The Bangalore Development Authority appears to be facing a trust deficit as its officials attempt to pacify agitating farmers who have put a stop to the progress of the Arkavathy Layout. The project has not seen progress since March 21 when farmers blocked BDA officials from entering the notified land.

In recent days, the BDA has made several overtures to the agitating farmers, including at least two rounds of negotiations directly with the BDA Commissioner.

A team of BDA officials led by the Deputy Commissioner (Land Acquisition) has been camping in the area, collecting documents from land losers with the stated intent of speeding up compensation.

But these moves have had little impact on the ground. The farmers continue to impose a blockade on notified land.

Their demand is simple: “Pay our compensation in full and then start work on the layout.”

The BDA, on its part, is more than willing to distribute the cash component of the compensation. But the agency's officials say it is impossible for them to distribute the sites which are part of the compensation package to land losers.

“Only after we form the layout can we distribute sites to land losers. They are not letting us form the layout. How can we distribute the sites?” says a senior BDA official. Another official says that the Comprehensive Dimension report from the local revenue department has been submitted to the BDA only two weeks ago. (This report marks out the various sites and other amenities.)

However, H.A. Shivakumar, a farmer, says similar excuses have been given by the BDA since 2003 when the land was first identified for acquisition. “If they don't have proper details on the demarcation of sites, how did they allot them to 8,000 applicants? How is it that these problems arise only when farmers have to be paid compensation?” he seeks to know even as he stresses that the agitation will be withdrawn only when the BDA completes the compensation process.

He points out that the decision was taken in March 2011 to make land losers stakeholders in the project by giving them 40 per cent of the sites formed in the layout. “They had more than a year since then to solve outstanding issues and pay the compensation. What have they done since March last year?” asks Mr. Shivakumar.

Another reason why the farmers are suspicious of the BDA's intentions is the lack of transparency in the project. “When we file RTIs seeking information on the progress of the project, we are given evasive and partial responses. That means they have something to hide,” says Ravi Reddy (42) another farmer.

Farmer Ramakrishnappa (50) says: “My 15-year-old son was very ill at the time the land was notified in 2003. At that time we were desperate to sell. But the BDA kept delaying the acquisition and compensation. My son eventually died of the illness in 2005.” Now, Mr. Ramakrishnappa is no mood to budge. “Let them pay the compensation in full and take the land. If not, we will not allow any work to begin.”

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