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A farmer's hunger strike to fight land acquisition

Last updated on: July 9, 2010 20:48 IST

A farmer's hunger strike to fight land acquisition

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Vicky Nanjappa in Mangalore


Land acquisition for special economic zones has been a major bone of contention across the nation.

Thousands of people whose land was being acquired to set up SEZs have protested against the low compensation offered and the manner in which the entire exercise is undertaken. Several of these agitations have led to many an SEZ being nipped in the bud.

The sensitive issue of land acquisition has now reared its head in Mangalore, and one such affected farmer has taken up cudgels against the might of the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board and is protesting against the proposed SEZ in Mangalore until his 'demands are met'.

Gregory Patrao, a resident of Mangalore, has been on a hunger strike since the past 23 days now. He says that 14.27 acres of his land was acquired by the KIADB for the proposed SEZ and it was "done in a haphazard manner".

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Patrao is inflexible and says that he will not relent unless he gets a positive reply from the authorities.

"All my land has been taken away and proper compensation has not been awarded. I was farming on that land and it provide me with my daily bread and butter," he says.

"I had even filed a writ petition before the high court and the single judge ruled against me. A certified copy of the order has not been received by me as yet. All I requested the KIADB was to wait for the certified copy of the order to come and give me time to prefer an appeal before the division bench and if the need be before the Supreme Court. However, the authorities were in no mood to listen and they just acquired my land and in the process even cleaned up my house," he laments.

"Tell me where do I go now? When they were acquiring my land they did not conduct a proper mahzar and thanks to this the proper compensation has not been awarded," Patrao adds.

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Photographs: Reuters
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A farmer's hunger strike to fight 'land acquisition'

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Patrao has now begun to get support from various quarters. On Thursday, the powerful Pejawar Swami of Udupi near Mangalore too joined the protest and said that the farmers are undergoing a lot of pain due to such forcible acquisitions.

Patrao's case is just one among the 100 such cases in and around Mangalore. An official at the KIADB said that this is the second phase of the acquisition. "We had no problem in the first phase. Land rates tend to go up as developmental works commence and one cannot use that as a ground to raise a protest. We have given more than the market value at that point of time," a KIADB official said.

During the first phase the government of Karnataka acquired 1,800 acres of land near Bajpe in Mangalore to set up a special economic zone. The entire process went off smoothly. KIADB said that land values were very low at that point in time and each one was offered Rs 8,500 for every cent (1 cent = one hundredth of an acre; or 1 cent = 435.6 square feet), which was above the actual market price. Hence there was no protest whatsoever.

However in the second phase of acquisition, KIADB proposed to acquire 2,020 acres of land. The board is now facing numerous protests during since the land value has gone up and it is offering 'only' Rs 12,000, per cent.

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Vikram Hegde, a prominent advocate from Mangalore, says that those farmers who have lost their land in the first phase are the ones who are more agitated. They see that the value of land has gone up now and feel that they were given a raw deal in the first place.

"Moreover, there are people coming forward and offering more rates for our land which in turn has made the land owners think twice about giving their land to KIADB. About 100 acres of land belonging to us is up for acquisition and we have been promised Rs 12,000 per cent in the second phase along with improvement charges. We have to wait and watch what happens."

The KIADB, however, says that the notification is out and it cannot stop acquisition of land. "It is in the larger interest of the state and people do tend to lose their land. We are doing out best to give them the best price so that they are not completely at a loss."

Patrao says that he will continue to wait for justice. "I don't propose to stop this protest and will continue to fast until I get justice," he says.



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