Ministry of Defence requested to pay compensation to farmers for using private land

The Government of Karnataka on November 23 accorded approval to withdraw its order on notifying an extent of private land on the outskirts of Belgaum, better known as Baghdad Asmara Field Firing Range, to enable the Army to carry out field firing and artillery practice.

The government has also decided to request the Ministry of Defence to pay compensation to farmers for having utilised private lands over the year for the firing range.

As per the latest government order, a copy of which was circulated here on Monday, the Revenue Department on November 1, 1970 defined an area of 10,639.36 acres for the Army to carry out field firing and artillery practice.

On January 8, 1981, the government issued another notification allowing the Army to utilise the same land for another 20 years. Both the orders were issued under Section 9 of the Manoeuvres, Field Firing and Artillery Practice Act, 1938.

Subsequently, another order dated May 24, 2000, was issued extending the period to 20 years. However, the extent of land was reduced to 7,469.11 acres.

1 km from BCC limits

The government observed that the land was situated within 1 km from the Belgaum City Corporation limits.

Over the years, there have been several requests, both from elected representatives and the public, to withdraw the notification. They said that as the land in question was permitted to be utilised as a field firing range, the public was prevented from taking up any construction, which affected access to their houses and fields.

Thus, in order to resolve the matter, a committee comprising Principal Secretaries of Departments of Law, Justice and Human Rights, Revenue as well as the Deputy Commissioner of Belgaum was constituted and a meeting was held here on September 14, 2012.

‘Not Defence land’

The committee submitted a report to the government stating that an area of 722 acres 32 guntas in various survey numbers of Turkamatti village stood in the name of the government as ‘Sarkari Kuran’ since 1873 till date.

The Defence officials had not produced any documentary evidence to show that this land were ‘Defence land’ and therefore had no rights over this land as per RTC records.

“Hence the State government may authorise the Deputy Commissioner to initiate action under Section 94 of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act for eviction of the unauthorised occupants.”

The government, while withdrawing its May 24, 2000, order decided to take over the land and issued direction to the Deputy Commissioner to take necessary action.

The government also directed the Deputy Commissioner to issue a letter to the Ministry of Defence not to take up any construction work in 7301.06 acres of private land. The committee will decide on the payment of compensation to farmers.

The government also decided to constitute a Land Audit Committee to ascertain exact requirement of land which would be required for the firing range. Thereafter, the government would proceed with the acquisition of land.

It may be noted that the Army is utilising two forest lands in Marihal and Ramdurg in the district as firing range.

The Department of Forests, Ecology and Environment, as per its orders dated June 28 and October 3, 2012 has agreed to the release of only the actual impact zone to be utilised as firing ranges.