Farmers worried about losing land for stocking sand, which went ‘missing’ after being ‘seized’

Farmers of Kattepura in Arakalgud taluk of Hassan district in Karnataka display the notices served on them by the tahsildar demanding a penalty for the ‘missing sand’.

Farmers of Kattepura in Arakalgud taluk of Hassan district in Karnataka display the notices served on them by the tahsildar demanding a penalty for the ‘missing sand’.

As many as 25 farmers of Kattepura village in Arakalgud taluk of Hassan district are worried about losing ownership of their land for not paying the penalty for the sand they allegedly stored illegally on their land, which eventually went ‘missing’ after being seized by revenue officials, in 2014. The Arakalgud tahsildar has ordered that their land be designated as government land on column 11 of their RTCs ( pahanis). The move would deny the farmers the right to transfer or mortgage their land.

Kattepura is on the bank of the Cauvery river and extraction of sand is not unheard of. Acting on complaints that residents of the village stored illegally extracted sand, senior officers of the Revenue Department visited the spot in 2014. They seized 465 truckloads of sand, which had been stocked by farmers on their land. Policemen were deployed to protect the seized sand. Later, as per the records, the officers disposed of 115 truckloads of the seized sand while the rest disappeared.

In April 2015, the Revenue Department decided to impose a penalty of ₹25,000 per truckload of sand that went missing. Thammanna Gowda, one of the farmers, received a notice from the tahsildar, asking him to pay a penalty of ₹4.25 lakh against 17 loads of sand that had been stocked in his agricultural land. Like him, 24 others have received notices for a total penalty of over ₹87 lakh. However, the farmers allege that officials had sold the seized sand flouting norms.

Lokayukta order

K.S. Venkatesh, a resident of Kattepura, told The Hindu that the officers, in collusion with the police, sold the seized land in 2015. “When we objected, the police used canes to disperse us. They did not even allow us to take video footage of their act. They assaulted our local leaders who objected to their actions. Later, they served us notices seeking a penalty and also withdrew ownership of our land. This is grave injustice.”

Nobody paid the penalty. G.K. Krishne Gowda, a resident of Madapura, a neighbouring village, filed a complaint with the Karnataka Lokayukta in 2016 alleging that officials sold 350 truckloads of seized sand illegally.

Arakalgud Tahsildar K.R. Srinivas told The Hindu that the decision to impose a penalty was taken in 2015. Notices were issued in the past too. “The matter went to the Karnataka Lokayukta. We got notices from the Lokayukta on the follow-up action on the penalty. As per directions of the Lokayukta, we have taken action and suitable entries have been made in the RTCs as per the Karnataka Land Revenue Act,” he said.

The farmers have consulted Arakalgud MLA A.T. Ramaswamy on this issue. Hassan Deputy Commissioner R. Girish is expected to hold a meeting soon on the issue.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2022 6:20:50 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/farmers-worried-about-losing-land-for-stocking-sand-which-went-missing-after-being-seized/article65569406.ece