Threaten to come in thousands to ensure panel order is implemented

Taking serious exception to the police dithering over providing adequate security to implement a directive to restore the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore’s land, farmers — who have benefited by the university’s pioneering work — have entered the picture to protect the campus from land sharks.

On Tuesday, they set a May 20 deadline for the government and police to implement the order of the high-level committee — constituted as per Karnataka High Court’s direction — to look into a controversial link road slicing through the campus. The committee concluded that the road would affect the biodiversity on the campus where several field trials are being held and ordered the road to be closed and the land restored to UAS-B. However, attempts last week to close the road were stymied by protests by vested interests even as the police looked on citing a ‘law-and-order situation’.

About 50 progressive farmers, who included women, led by Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha leader Kurubur Shanthakumar, after staging a symbolic protest on the link road against the stonewalling by the authorities, said thousands of farmers from across the State would descend at the site and close the link road.

Speaking to The Hindu, they wondered why the government, which shows great alacrity in acquiring large tracts of farmland for various projects backed by police security, wasn’t showing similar zeal in returning the land to a university dedicated to the agriculture sector.

“This university belongs to us as it is working on farm research. When the government fails to protect its interests, it becomes our duty to enter the picture in the interest of our future,” remarked Mr. Shanthakumar. “The link road affects ongoing farm research in the university.”

Taking serious exception to real estate interests and local politicians obstructing efforts to restore the land, he said: “We, the farmers of the State, want to publicly warn them against any encroachment of UAS-B land or obstruction of the court order implementation. We are ready to protect the campus.”

Background

The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike had taken 24 acres of the university land in September 2009 for the link road to connect Yelahanka with Bellary Road and a 3.9-km stretch has already been built at a cost of Rs. 15.19 crore.

Seven former vice-chancellors, the Alumni Association and some environmentalists had filed a public interest litigation petition in the High Court against such a road through the university which has been declared as a heritage site under the Biological Diversity Act. They contended that the road would affect not only its biodiversity but also the sensitive farm experimental projects on the campus. The High Court Bench, comprising then Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice H.G. Ramesh disposed of the petition in September 2011 by directing the government to constitute a high-level committee to technically examine the contentions and resolve the issue.

The high-level committee, headed by Chief Secretary S. V. Ranganath, concluded that vehicular pollution would affect research projects on campus and asked the authorities concerned on March 30, 2013 to shelve the project and restore the land to the university.