Renaming Ramanagara to Bengaluru South: Will it be a boon at all?

Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar wants to rename Ramanagara district, abutting a bourgeoning Bengaluru, to Bengaluru South. The Hindu talks to people of the region and experts about what they hope for beyond a name change

Updated - February 08, 2024 04:22 pm IST

Published - November 03, 2023 07:00 am IST

Road-widening and pipe-laying work in progress near Yaduvanahalli gate, which leads to Kanakapura from Bengaluru.

Road-widening and pipe-laying work in progress near Yaduvanahalli gate, which leads to Kanakapura from Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: K. Bhagya Prakash

Perched upon a weathered bench near his farm in Sathanur, about 20 kilometres from Bengaluru, smoking his beedi, 50-year-old farmer S.C. Lokesh laughs sardonically about the Karnataka government’s proposal to rename Ramanagara district to Bengaluru South. “The commercialisation of this region is a well-thought-out plan by politicians and realtors. They won’t even leave gomala (grazing) lands alone,” he says. Ramanagara district, adjoining the megapolis that Bengaluru has become, is undergoing ‘development’, with construction visible in places. The proposal to rename it Bengaluru South will drive the prices further up, he says.

S.C. Lokesh, a farmer in Sathanur of Kanakapura taluk in Ramanagara district.

S.C. Lokesh, a farmer in Sathanur of Kanakapura taluk in Ramanagara district. | Photo Credit: K. Bhagya Prakash

Real estate interest

Deputy Chief Minister and Bengaluru Development Minister D.K. Shivakumar, who made the district renaming proposal, did not hide the real estate interest behind the move. Speaking at an event in Shivanahalli in Kanakapura, on the outskirts of southern Bengaluru, Shivakumar advised villagers not to sell their land to Bengalureans since soon he would ensure Kanakapura, the constituency he represents in the State Assembly, is added to Bengaluru and the land rates would go up.

Since his statement drew ire from many quarters, especially the Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, who had carved out the Ramanagara district from Bengaluru Rural district back in 2007 when he was the Chief Minister, Sivakumar rethought the plan. He said he now plans to rename Ramanagara to Bengaluru South, without changing the contours of the district.

“The people of this region belong to Kempegowda’s Bengaluru,” he said, with a clear wish to not only be associated with the megapolis and reap its benefits, but also to try to consolidate all the regions ruled by modern Bengaluru’s founder Kempegowda, into Bengaluru.

This has drawn mixed reactions on the ground. While there is some enthusiasm about land prices increasing and development (good roads and industries) coming to their towns, not everybody is convinced by what a name change can achieve. They argue that more needs to be done to develop the district adjacent to Bengaluru, instead of only making it ripe for Bengaluru’s expansion.

In a district traditionally driven by rain-fed agriculture and sericulture (it has one of the largest silkworm cocoon markets in Asia) and little else by way of employment opportunities, its proximity to the growth engine of the State, Bengaluru, seems to be the advantage it has always wanted to leverage.

Road connectivity and land prices

Women collecting silk cocoons from a bamboo tray mountage at Arekatte Doddi near Sathnur, Kanakapura taluk in Ramanagara district.

Women collecting silk cocoons from a bamboo tray mountage at Arekatte Doddi near Sathnur, Kanakapura taluk in Ramanagara district. | Photo Credit: K. Bhagya Prakash

The present Ramanagara district has five taluks — Ramanagara, Channapatna, Magadi, Kanakapura, and Harohalli. Ramanagara and Channapatna taluks — 50-60 km away from Bengaluru’s Central Business District (CBD) — are along the newly developed 10-lane Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway that has significantly crunched travel time.

On the other hand, Kanakapura and Harohalli taluks — 45-60 km away from Bengaluru’s CBD — are along the Kanakapura Road, which is being widened. Once complete in a year or so, it will clear the present bottleneck and make travel to Kanakapura hassle-free. Metro rail connectivity is already available till Silk Institute on Kanakapura Road and Challaghatta on the Mysuru Road.

While this has raised hopes that these taluks will become new destinations in an ever-expanding Bengaluru, for now, it has driven the land prices along these roads northwards. Currently, an acre of land adjacent to Kanakapura Road is between ₹2 crore and ₹3 crore; until about five years ago, it was in the ₹70 lakh to ₹1.5 crore. It is expected to go up further once the road widening work is taken up by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

In the rural and semi-urban areas, the market price is pegged between ₹30 lakh and ₹1 crore. Similarly, in Ramanagara and Channapatna an acre of land costs between ₹ 25 lakh and ₹ 80 lakh.

Recently, the Department of Stamps and Registration hiked the guidance value of land along both Kanakapura Road and Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway from 30% to over 50%, an indication of rising land prices in the district over the last two to three years.

Several apartments and gated communities are already coming up both along Kanakapura Road and the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway. But farmers here have two to three acre parcels of land and if they sell that they have no means to earn a sustainable income in the future, said Suresh M., a resident of Harohalli. “A friend of mine sold his land for about ₹1 crore a few years ago. He then threw the money into gambling in Goa and lost it all. He is now left with half an acre of land and no other means,” he says.

As Shivakumar promises big land prices, many farmers may sell their land for astronomical prices and end up again with nothing if they do not invest the money wisely, he says. Devanahalli saw similar stories following the establishment of the international airport there, he points out.  

Rahamatullah Baig (centre), an auto driver in Ramanagara town.

Rahamatullah Baig (centre), an auto driver in Ramanagara town. | Photo Credit: K. Bhagya Prakash

Question of jobs

Rahamatullah Baig, an auto driver from Ramanagara town, works in Bengaluru. “There are neither jobs here nor enough business, even to drive an auto. So I drive my auto in Bengaluru.” Like him, because of a lack of job opportunities, thousands of youth from the district work in Bengaluru. Those who remain in their hometowns are farmers, provide tourism-related services, or are forced to work in menial jobs. The mere renaming of the district offers little for the unemployment crisis plaguing the district, they say.

There are two industrial estates in the district: in Harohalli and Bidadi. While two phases of the Harohalli industrial area have been a success, the third phase is yet to take off. Projects that could have positively impacted the district have fallen by the wayside.

A view of Kanakapura town in Ramanagara district.

A view of Kanakapura town in Ramanagara district. | Photo Credit: K. Bhagya Prakash

Consider, for instance, the Satellite Town Ring Road (STRR), which was conceived of about a decade and a half ago. While the project has finally taken off with NHAI deciding to execute it, it is now a pale shadow of the original idea. It was first planned as an integrated development project, and not just a road. STRR is a 288-km long ring road project that connects 12 towns around Bengaluru — Kanakapura, Ramanagara, Magadi, Tattekere, Hosur, Anekal, Attibele, Sarjapur, Hosakote, Sulibele, Devanahalli, Doddaballapur, and Dobspet.

While the road is getting ready, other project components have been given up. Initially, the plan included five self-sustainable townships in Bidadi in Ramanagara, Kasaba and Sathanur in Kanakapura, Solur in Magadi, and Nandagudi in Hoskote taluk. While the road project is on, none of the five proposed townships have become a reality. 

A later proposal in 2016 — the revised Bengaluru Metropolitan Region Structural Plan-2031 — seeks to consolidate the economic activity in the 12 towns that the STRR connects, creating economic clusters around industries with multi-modal public transport to connect Bengaluru. However, multiple sources in the State government said they were unaware of any plans to promote such industries or create new industrial areas in these towns.

“Developing road projects will only crunch travel time to Bengaluru. This is a very Bengaluru-centric development model. Several apartments and gated communities will come up to provide housing for those working maybe on the city’s outskirts. But residents of these taluks will be forced to go to the city to find jobs. Instead, if industries are also developed, these towns will become self-sustaining,” said an urban planner who did not wish to be named.

A view of Ramanagara town in Ramanagara district.

A view of Ramanagara town in Ramanagara district. | Photo Credit: K. Bhagya Prakash

Land price conundrum

Meanwhile, the high cost of land itself has become a major hurdle for development in the region. “Acquiring an acre of land in taluks next to the city costs anywhere between ₹3 to ₹4 crore, which has made land acquisition costs prohibitive,” says a Bengaluru MLA from the Congress, currently the ruling party in Karnataka.

“This has not only grounded development projects like the Peripheral Ring Road, for which the land acquisition bill has now ballooned to nearly ₹20,000 crore, but also made industrial development a tough task. Most industries are not ready to pay such prohibitive costs when they are being offered at concessional rates in neighbouring States. The land prices that people in these districts chase have ironically turned against them,” said the MLA.

However, urban planners say renaming Ramanagara district to Bengaluru South was not a bad idea in itself. However, they feel it will bear fruit only in conjunction with several other measures and a holistic vision for the region.

“For instance, Delhi has marketed itself well as the National Capital Region, which also includes Gurugram. The advantage of the name tag of the nearby metro city is immense. Now, even Uttar Pradesh is talking of a State Capital Region around Lucknow,” says a senior government official, who did not wish to be named.

“Bengaluru, being a global city, is fit to be marketed as a Bengaluru Region, including Bengaluru Rural and Bengaluru South districts, if Ramanagara is renamed so. However, then a loose common governance infrastructure needs to be devised for the region to ensure policy uniformity and branding,” they say.

Ecological concerns remain

Sunil Mande, a businessman who has a farm stay facility and Nitin Kurian, who is in the tourism business in Ramanagara district.

Sunil Mande, a businessman who has a farm stay facility and Nitin Kurian, who is in the tourism business in Ramanagara district. | Photo Credit: K. Bhagya Prakash

What is, however, overlooked in all these developmental arguments is the fact that the district has wide elephant corridors and large regions marked as green belts. A developmental blitzkrieg cannot come without damaging this.

“The development in Channapatna, Sathnur, and Kanakapura should not come at the cost of the green belt and elephant corridor. On a daily basis, elephants are sighted in these areas,”says Nitin Kurian, who provides eco-tourism services in the district. He adds that the area is home to diverse species of animals, birds, insects, butterflies, and other wildlife. Once the region is sucked into the chaos of urbanisation, it will kill biodiversity.

Dollaiah Gowda, a farmer in Channapatna, says the name change will make no difference to the lives of farmers who want to continue cultivation. “We grow ragi, horse gram, silk, and paddy. The government must work towards helping farmers carry out sustainable farming instead of seeing this region just as real estate if it wants to help people like me,” he said.

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