People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 29

July 17, 2011


Farmers Rise in Protest Against Corporate Land Grab


A Report From Karnataka


BELLARY district has attained a notorious reputation in India due to the illegal mining activities of the Reddy Brothers. Less known is the fact that the big corporates like Arcelor Mittal, Jindal, Vedanta, Bhushan Steel Limited (BSL), Satavahana Steels are all vying with Reddy’s own Brahmani steels to grab large tracts of land dirt cheap by flouting all norms. They have carved out among themselves more than 30,000 acres of land spread across 18 villages in Bellary, Sandur and Hospet Taluks. Another 10,000 acres is being acquired in the Hospet and Hagaribommanahalli taluks too. Thousands of farmers have been affected by these arbitrary acquisitions and their entire livelihood is under threat.


Jindal Steels which has already acquired more than 10,000 acres is planning to acquire more land in the nearby areas. Arcelor Mittal has occupied 4800 acres, Brahmani Steels and BSL have occupied 5000 acres each, Satavahana Steels 1000 acres and Vedanta has bought the 1100 acres held earlier by Bellary Steels and Alloys Limited (BSAL). Notably BSAL has acquired the land more than 15 years ago and has neither set up industries nor any venture that will generate employment for the local people. The corporate sector is buying land on the pretext of industrialisation and using it for real estate purposes. The land being acquired is also much larger than what would be required for meeting the production capacities of these companies. Profit-making public sector companies like National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) and Bellary Thermal Power Station (BTPS) have also acquired large tracts of land. NMDC has acquired 3500 acres and another 3000 acres have been acquired for the Bellary Thermal Power Station (BTPS).




The BJP government in Karnataka of which the Reddy Brothers are a part has given a free hand for corporate take-over of land in Bellary district. The farmers are being given as low as 3 lakh per acre though the market rate ranges from 50 lakhs to 1 crore. The Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB) has facilitated this take-over by bending rules and has indulged in forcible acquisition giving pittance to the unwilling peasantry. KIADB officials have also undervalued the land much below the market rates to help the land mafia.


The Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha (KPRS) affiliated to the All India Kisan Sabha took up the issue and launched a bike rally in which more than 50 activists led by its state vice president U Basavaraju crisscrossed the different parts of the state building awareness about the illegal and unjust nature of land acquisition. The rally which started at Kudathini in Bellary district on July 9 ended at Bangalore on July 11, 2011. Hundreds of KPRS activists joined the rallyists at Bangalore. A meeting was held in which K Varadha Rajan, general secretary, AIKS and the state president and general secretary of KPRS namely Maruti Manpade and G C Byyareddy addressed the gathering.


Speaking on the occasion K Varadha Rajan hit out at the double speak of the BJP on the issue of land acquisition. Like the Congress the BJP too spoke one thing in Uttar Pradesh and did exactly the opposite in Karnataka, he said. He congratulated the activists who took part in the bike rally for exposing their double speak and anti-farmer character in front of the people of the state. He also warned the BJP government that the people would show them the door if the land of the peasants who feed the country was acquired without proper compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement. The Congress party who are trying to extract maximum mileage out of the land acquisition in Uttar Pradesh was however missing in action in Karnataka and covertly hand in glove with the land grabbers, he charged. He warned the authorities that the AIKS will intensify struggles if the indiscriminate land grabbing was not immediately put to an end.


Later the protesters marched to the KIADB headquarters and held a dharna for more than three hours. A memorandum was handed over to the chief executive officer of KIADB, Shyam Bhat. The land oustees have formed a broad platform known as the Bhoo Santrasthara Horata Samiti (Land Losers’ Struggle Committee). Among their major demands are adequate compensation at market rate, jobs for members of the families who lose land, return of 40 per cent of the developed land in line with the Bengaluru Urban Development Authority (BUDA) guidelines, share in profits of the company, return of the 1100 acres acquired by BSAL on the pretext of setting up industries fifteen years back and later sold to Vedanta without any industrialisation or employment generation. The CEO of KIADB assured that he would redress the grievances of the peasantry and take speedy action on the guilty officials. The peasants returned with the resolve to intensify struggles and protect their land with all their might.