KARNATAKA

Jamkhandi farmers refuse to call off hunger strike

BIJAPUR, AUG. 21. Farmers from Jamkhandi taluk, who have been on a "fast-unto-death" agitation on the premises of the Minor Irrigation Department here for the past five days.

They reiterated that they would not call off the agitation until the Government assured them that the command area of the Adihudi-Todalbagi Lift Irrigation Scheme (ATLIS) would not be extended.

Four farmers had to be hospitalised after their health deteriorated on Friday, even as police booked cases against them on the charge of attempted suicide.

The police identified the farmers as Arjun Somanna Kairav of Todalbagi village, and Mallappa Ningappa Havgonda, Dareppa Mallappa Guggari, and Bheemappa Dundappa Katral of Hirepadasalagi village.

The farmers' leaders, Venkatesh Joshi and Ramanna Jambagi, told presspersons that after two decades of struggle the villagers of Savalagi hobli got the ATLIS commissioned, with little over 3600 acres of land under the scheme.

Pressure

However, farmers from some villages on the banks of the river had put pressure on the Government to include their villages under the scheme. Inclusion of fresh areas was not technically viable, as the water lifting capacity of the pumps was limited.

The people in the villages along the main pipeline already had a lift irrigation scheme, although it had been defunct for quite some time. Instead of getting the scheme functional again they were asking for a share in the ATLIS, the farmers said. The protesting farmers urged the officials concerned not to bow down to pressure from these groups.

The MLC and former Union Minister, Siddu Nyamagouda; the Bilagi MLA, Murgesh Nirani, under whose segment the ATLIS falls; and the Bijapur MLA, Appasaheb Pattanashetti, pleaded with the protestors to end their agitation. They suggested that a meeting of ATLIS beneficiaries and those who wanted to be included in the scheme be held to sort out the issue.