The proposed new Bellary airport, the dream project of former Minister G. Janardhan Reddy, who is lodged in Hyderabad’s Chanchalguda jail, may not take off after all.
The State government has been dithering on whether to go ahead with the project or to shelve it, after farmers filed a writ petition in the Karnataka High court opposing land acquisition for the airport.
With the agency which earlier expressed interest in developing the airport on private-public partnership (PPP) model backing out and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) declaring the project ‘unviable’, it appears to be in limbo.
“As of now the project has not been scrapped. The government is yet to take a decision on whether to go ahead with the project or scrap it. The project will be through if any agency expresses interest,” Santosh Lad, Minister of State for Infrastructure Development told The Hindu over the phone.
According to him, the slowdown in economy and dispute over land may have caused the agency to back out.
“We hope an agency will come forward at the next Global Investors’ Meet,” he said.
Mr. Janardhan Reddy, as the then Minister for Infrastructure Development and Tourism, mooted the idea of constructing a greenfield airport 20 km away from Bellary city on about 900 acres of fertile irrigated land.
A group of farmers, led by Mr. Mallikarjun Reddy, launched a series of agitations to force the government to withdraw the proposal, as it would hit food production and leave hundreds of agricultural labourers jobless.
When their agitations proved futile, they approached the High Court for relief and succeeded in getting the notification of the Karnataka Industrial Area Development (KIADB) stayed.
Meanwhile, around 80 percent of the land (around 700 acres) had been acquired with most farmers parting with their land and receiving compensation. As the land continued to be in their possession, they have been cultivating it too.
Mr. Mallikarjun Reddy, speaking to The Hindu , said he had come out with a proposal of handing over the fertile irrigated land to a cooperative society, in which landless agricultural labourers and government officials would be members.
“If this is done, the original status of the land would be maintained. It would help landless labourers to eke out a living and ensure food production,” he said, and added he would submit a memorandum to the government in this regard.