‘Board has failed to ensure benefits reach people’

Observing that the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) has failed to ensure that benefits of land acquisition had reached the targeted groups, the Karnataka High Court on Wednesday decided to look into the manner in which the board has been exercising its statutory duties.

Also, the court directed the State government to submit details on how it is going to ensure that the objective of land acquisition is implemented by ensuring that approved projects take off on the acquired land within a specified timeframe and jobs guaranteed at the time of approval are provided to land losers and people from that particular locality.

The court said that it has to undertake this exercise in the interest of farmers.

A Division Bench comprising Justice K.L. Manjunath and Justice Ravi Malimath issued the directions while hearing an appeal filed by people whose land was acquired in 1996 for setting up a sugar factory at Kaliganahalli and Hattna villages of Bellur hobli, Nagamangala taluk in Mandya district, challenging the rejection of a plea against land acquisition by a single judge.

Terms of allotment

The Bench noticed that as per the terms of allotment of 86 acres of acquired land, Prem Sugar and Chemicals Corporation Ltd. should have operationalised its unit within 36 months from 1996.

Though the company got this period extended through a court order and the board twice extended the deadline, the company even now had not laid the foundation stone for its project despite the passage of 16 years after allotment, the court found while also noticing that one of the conditions of allotment was that the 80 per cent of jobs in the factory were reserved for families of land losing farmers.

“Not only in respect of this particular project, the KIADB has failed to ensure the implementation of many such projects, both single unit complexes and industrial suburbs in the State,” the Bench observed.

The Bench said that though the scope of this litigation was limited to acquisition of land for a particular project, other aspects require consideration, as it has been observed in most cases that the KIADB had failed to supervise the industrial suburbs or single unit complexes. “It is also seen by us that though land has been allotted in the guise of creation of employment, such guaranteed jobs have not been provided to land losers or the families residing near the project area,” the court said while observing that if such things are permitted the very objective of land acquisition would be defeated.

Guidelines

As Advocate-General Ravivarma Kumar too admitted that certain guidelines are required for the KIADB, the court directed the State government to submit details on what action it proposes to take to get back allotted land if projects were not implemented despite the expiry of deadline.

The Government would have to give details on how surplus land would be utilised; what action has been taken to ensure that companies provided jobs as guaranteed by them at the time of securing acquired land; and how land losers are rehabilitated if the intended project is not set up.

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