“My grandfather received a notice on land acquisition 18 years ago, and now I am standing before you. This project has caused hardships for farmers. Youngsters like me want to take up agriculture, but you are snatching away our land,” said Vijayakumar, during a public hearing on the Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) project, organised by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) on Wednesday.
Objections to the inordinate delay in implementing the project, environment destruction, lapses on the part of the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), and demand for fair compensation were the highlights of the public hearing.
Around 70 people participated in the meeting that was held at B.R. Ambedkar Bhavan in Yelahanka. Heavy police deployment was made near the venue and police outnumbered the participants.
Jayanth, a farmer whose property has been identified for the acquisition, said, “This public hearing is a mockery of democracy. The farmers who have protested against the BDA are in public custody. In their absence this public hearing has been organised. All these years, the farmers have suffered. After their land was notified, they could not sell the land for the marriage of their children or to meet medical expenses. Now, the BDA wants to exploit them further by not agreeing to fair compensation”.
As per the proposal, the BDA is building an eight-lane road connecting Tumakuru Road with Hosur Road. The 74-km stretch will connect major roads such as Hesarghatta Road, Doddaballapur Road, Ballari Road, Old Madras Road, and Hoskote-Anekal Road.
The estimated cost of the project is ₹14,934 crore, out of which ₹9,318 crore is required for land acquisition and rehabilitation. More than 1,036 hectares of land are required for the project, out of which 555 hectares of land are private properties.
Fixing compensation for the notified land has been one of the major hurdles that the project has been facing all these years.
Ramesh from Ramagondanahalli said, “When land losers get higher compensation for projects such as Bengaluru-Mysuru highway and others, why is there a disparity in fixing pay compensation for PRR projects? We want compensation as per Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. We will not agree to any other compensation”.
S.K. Vijayakumar termed the hearing as illegal. He said that the project was not taken up within the timeline fixed as per the provision of the BDA Act and the authority cannot acquire notified land.
Bengaluru Urban Deputy Commissioner Sangappa headed the hearing. There was a demand by participants for one more round of hearing in the core city area. However, the DC said that additional public hearings will not be conducted.
In 2020, the BDA conducted two rounds of public hearings on the project and they were challenged in the Karnataka High Court. The court had ordered authorities to conduct a fresh hearing.
36,824 trees will make way for the project
As per the environmental impact assessment (EIA) made for the project, 36,824 trees will have to be removed for the project. At Thippagondanahalli reservoir, 20 km of the proposed road will be built and 13,355 come in the way of the project. More than 630 trees have been identified at Jarakabande Kaval reserve forest area.
One of the participants in the hearing, Lalitha, said, “Our parents had shifted to the land notified for the project 50 years ago. In our area, 300 trees such as mango, sapota and coconut have been identified for removal. These trees are identified for removal so that cars and other vehicles use the road. The project will have a huge environmental impact and I demand that the BDA do a detailed census of the trees”.
CM to meet farmers
Farmers, who were in police custody after they staged a protest on Tuesday, were taken to Freedom Park on Wednesday. The farmers were demanding that the police allow them to stage a protest near the BDA office.
In the evening, after police informed them that the Chief Minister would hold a meeting with them in four days, they decided to temporarily withdraw the protest. Eshwar Reddy, a farmer, said, “We are hopeful that the CM will listen to our grievances. If authorities fail to convene a meeting with the CM, we will hold protests against the BDA.”