BANGALORE: It may be the biggest daylight land robbery in the state, but nothing much has been done to either book the encroachers or deter others. Around one-third of government land in Bangalore has been encroached upon - 41,303 acres worth Rs 1.03 lakh crore.
Finally, there seems to be some hope for Bangalore as the protest led by freedom fighter HS Doreswamy and former legislator AT Ramaswamy seeking decisive action to recover the land is gaining momentum. Protesters feel the state government isn't doing much to bring encroachers and land grabbers to book.
Bangalore Urban consists of five taluks -Bangalore North, Bangalore North Additional, Bangalore East, Bangalore South and Anekal. The total government land, including forests, is 1.3 lakh acres. Of this, 41,303 acres (31.77%) have been encroached upon. The Karnataka government told the high court that 33,878 acres had been encroached upon in the district. However, Ramaswamy, who headed the joint legislature committee of 17 members that unearthed encroachments in the city and surrounding areas in 2006-07, rejected this figure and said 41,303 acres have been encroached upon.
Ramaswamy says that even at a conservative estimate, 1 acre costs at least Rs 2.5 crore, which means the encroached land is worth Rs 1.03 lakh crore.
"It's the mother of all illegalities and a challenge to public authority. It's a conspiracy against the society and the government. The present and past governments haven't shown any political will to deal with the land mafia and recover the public land," rues Ramaswamy.
Former additional chief secretary V Balasubramanian, who was also the chairman of the task force for recovery and protection of government lands, says the land could be worth much more. "Take, for instance, the encroached Byrasandra Lake. Many multi-storey business complexes have come up there. There, 1sqft of land costs about Rs 20,000," he said. He puts the average price of land at Rs 2 crore to Rs 3 crore per acre in the district which means the total land encroached upon would be worth more than Rs 1 lakh crore.
Protesters are not satisfied with the government's announcement of creating two deputy commissioner posts in Bangalore Urban district and the promise of constituting special courts after getting the President's assent for the Karnataka Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Bill, 2011.
They also want the issue of encroachment by the poor treated differently from those by the mafia. The government has issued notices to encroachers, but not much has been done to deal with land grabbers.
However, according to law and parliamentary affairs minister TB Jayachandra, the government's decision is unprecedented. "I have been politics for four decades, but haven't witnessed such a bold step," he said. 11 lakh acres encroached: Around 11.07 lakh acres or 10% of the total government land in the state has been encroached upon, according to official figures. However, V Balasubramanian, chairman of the task force for recovery and protection of government lands, calls it under-reporting. "By a conservative projection, the total encroachment of all government lands would be in the range of 12 to 15 lakh acres or 12%-15% of the total extent of government land," he said in the report submitted in June 2011. A conservative estimate of the worth of the land is Rs 1.95 lakh crore.