The Karnataka High Court’s interim order has come as a relief to small and marginal farmers who have been fighting to protect their fertile land on the either side of the Pune-Bangalore National Highway (Express Highway) 4.
About 20 families of farmers owning small and marginal land on survey Nos. 628, 629 and 630 on either side of the highway, just 2 km from the Central Bus Stand, have been fighting against the move by the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) to allegedly hand it over to Parivartan Alpasankhyatara Krushi Sahakara Sangha (PAKSS), a private society controlled by Belgaum South MLA Abhay Kumar Patil of the BJP.
The KIADB had initiated steps to acquire the land against the will of the farmers who were depending on it for livelihood. The PAKSS wanted to set up a cold storage plant there. The National Highway Division, Belgaum, in its notification issued on March 27, 2000, determined the “building lines” and “control lines” and declared that 75 metres on either side of the existing highway as “Green Belt Zone” and banned construction activities and development work in this area.
When the farmers challenged the move to acquire their land in the High Court, the KIADB temporarily stalled the process only on the direction of Regional Commissioner Amita Prasad. But the police started harassing and threatening the farmers.
The High Court recently passed an interim order and asked the Government to respond “as to why the State should not take the responsibility of providing cold storage facilities to farmers as sought to be done by PAKSS for whose benefit the land is proposed to be acquired by the board.”