Posts Tagged ‘nandagudi’
Involving all affected members of a community in a fight for their rights is a challenge in any struggle. If the threat is as non apparent as an SEZ that has received in principle approval, this challenge is made even more difficult to overcome. The track record of state governments scrapping an in principal approved SEZ is non existent. The one proposed to be set up in Nandigram comes close to being counted as one, but then, it has not really been scrapped. And Nandigram has happened at the cost of the lives lost, the injuries & the sexual, physical and mental abuse suffered by its residents at the hands of govt. sponsored hooligans over many weeks and months.
Fighting for one’s rights is not an easy thing. For a small farmer, often it might be much easier to accept the measly compensation, however inadequate it might be. With a land holding of an acre or less, they would have worked on other’s farms or experienced seasonal migration to make ends meet. The cash compensation might seem to be something substantial enough to allow them to ‘settle down’, though there are very few examples of such sucesses.
Usually one can see that the struggle against an unjust acquisition and an even more unjust compensation is spear headed by those with more than an acre or so and less than 10 to 15 acres of land holding. Having built their farm and family these farmers typically are the most vested in their land and know what they would be loosing in case of an acquisition.
Farmers with relatively larger land holdings are either absentee farmers, or feel that they are too big to be bothered by such minor land acquisitions. More often though, the powers that be do not touch the lands of those farmers strong enough to rock the decision of the acquisition. Even if a significant portion of a large land holding is acquired, the land owner can sit back and see the land value soar as the struggle against the acquisition is fought by others. Rarely can one see a large land owner stand shoulder to shoulder with the few small and many medium land holding farmers and fight against the acquisition.
A typical scenrio seemed to prevail in the area proposed to be acquired for an SEZ in Nandagudi, near Bangalore. It was a short four hour visit and most probably we were not able to capture the details of the community coming together to fight for their rights. But from what we could see, Nandagudi Bhooswadeena Horata Samiti (NBHS) (Anti-land Acquisition Committee of Nandagudi) has an uphill battle in front of them to convince both the small and the large land holding farmers of the threat to their land, their lives and their livelihood.
Back in April I volunteered with Delhi Forum during a three day protest against the GoI’s policies on land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation, and the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) mushrooming around the country(side). It was an event with participation from more than 30 movements, organizations, and campaigns from across the country. Working with the team preparing the daily press release I got a taste of the effort and tact needed to get a press release out in such events. While each of the participants by themselves would not have attracted much media attention, the presence of the many regional and national campaign and movement leaders, and ofcouse Medhatai leading the dharna, seemed to be a fairly decent media attraction. And it was quite understandble that each of the participating groups wanted to see their issues & challenges projected in the press releases.
On July 2nd I was on the other side of a press conference. This one was organized by the Nandagudi Bhooswadeena Horata Samiti (Anti-land Acquisition Committee of Nandagudi). A ‘multi-product’ SEZ is proposed to be set up on 12,500 acres of fertile land leading to the displacement and loss of livelihood to more than a lakh people. The press conference was addressed by leaders from the Karnataka Rajya Raithara Sangha, CITU, CPI-M, and those from the Samiti. A new government had assumed power in the state less than a fortnight earlier and was planning to submit its budget within the following fortnight. The press conference was focused on getting the media to publicise the not so fruitful meetings with the new Chief Minister and the renewed declarations of solidarity by leaders of politically active bodies. Though the anti-SEZ campaign was the focus of the press conference, it was not the only one. The well attended press conference was also reconfirmation of the media’s attraction towards star power. After the press conference, Mr. Kenche Gowda a leader of the samiti and the KRRS leader Chandrashekar both made themselves available for interviews outside the venue. Once again, the local was not in much demand …
The pace and zeal with which resource rich land is being acquired in different parts of the country in the name of ‘development’ is shocking, to say the least. The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Act of 2005 has made it the govt.’s task to acquire land for anyone who can claim to set one up and convince the babus in the Ministry of Commerce. An SEZ would be a sovereign of its own. One would need documentation to move anything into or out of an SEZ, similar to those needed to move anything into or out of a country. In exchange for this almost unrestrained freedom, the SEZ is expected to have a positive net foreign exchange. A recent CAG report lays out how SEZs reap the benefits while defeating this objective.
SEZs are mushrooming across the country(side). More than 500 of them have been cleared and more than twice that many are waiting for approval. A ‘multi-product’ SEZ is proposed to be set up on 12,500 acres of fertile land in Nandagudi hobli of Bangalore Rural district. It has been given provisional approval and the Govt. of Karnataka is testing the waters to begin the land acquisition process. The SEZ would lead to the displacement and loss of livelihood of more than a lakh people. Farmers from Nandagudi are known for their milk-silk and vegetables and supply about 30% of the fresh produce bangaloreans consume daily.
Nandagudi Bhooswadeena Horata Samiti (NBHS) (Anti-land Acquisition Committee of Nandagudi) was formed to lead the struggle. The community got its first information of the designs being drafted on their land when the media reported that an application for a SEZ was filed. Neither the local community nor the local elected bodies knew that a Nikhil Gandhi from SK Infrastructure Limited, had sought that their land be acquired by the goverment.
NAPM, Sahaja Samrudha, Community Health Cell, AID Bangalore and various other groups organized protest marches and dharnas against the SEZ act and in particular the proposed SEZ in Nandagudi. The change of govt. in Bangalore is not expected to change the direction of the onslaught by much. The NBHS has taken the GoK to court over its attempts to silently convert forest land into state government land.
Over the next few months and years I hope to support this struggle in whatever way that I can and will be posting about it…