Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor

Not so Nice

The Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project has run into rough weather again thanks to the present coalition government's inconsistent stance and aimless politics. The project, the brainchild of the Asian Development Bank and the erstwhile Janata Dal government led by Mr. Deve Gowda in 1994, was for a 4-way express highway between Bangalore and Mysore , covering 2500 acres of land. The increasing vehicular traffic between the two cities and lack of adequate train facilities, with the central government taking its own time to convert the train track into double track, had forced the then government to go for such a project to ease the traffic.

But a consortium of MNCs and the then government, had different ideas and it was to launch a bigger project to be executed by Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE), and thus was born the BMIC project, which had four chief elements for execution: 1) Connecting the NH17 to NH7 and NH4, through ring roads, thus interlinking Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai and Poona; 2) Construction of a corridor highway, walled on both sides to enable vehicles to travel at 120 kms. per hour; 3) Construction of 5 townships along the corridor to cater to the rich and elite sections of the globalised society; and 4) The 90-ft highway to be built at a cost of Rs.2500 crore, covers more than 22000 acres of land to be acquired from the farmers, of course without adequate compensation.

A corporate centre at Kengeri, a commercial centre at Bidadi, an industrial centre at Channapattna, an agri centre at Mandya and an eco-tourism centre at Srirangapattana, to be built under the project, would be provided with all infrastructure facilities. Added to this would be the casinos, clubs, water-worlds and what not.

Of the 22000 acres, more than 5000 acres belong to the government and the rest have been acquired from the farmers. The farmers are yet to get full compensation and there is a controversy about the excess 2000 acres acquired by the NICE company. The once dry lands of the 1940s were given a lease of fresh life by construction of the KR Sagar dam across the river Cauvery and for the past 5 decades or so this stretch of land has been the lifeline of the farmers of Karnataka. The rich paddy and sugarcane belt has been surrendered at the altar of globalization process. Lakhs of farmers losing out their lands for the sake of the corridor, of course in the interest of “development”, are languishing in poverty and deprivation.

The company has plans to construct bridges at several places to help flow of irrigation water and also for the people to cross the corridor to reach their villages, which would be separated by the wall-mounted corridor. As bullock carts and other conventional vehicles would not be allowed into the corridor, the people would be forced to use the bridges and subways, after trekking 8 to 10 kms.

Many experts have been warning about the catastrophic effects of the corridor project as it would affect lives of millions of people belonging to 160 gram panchayats and 118 villages. The farmers would not only lose their lands for a pittance of compensation, but would also lose the grazing pastures for their cattle and easy access to their own farmlands. Already the process of globalization has penetrated deep into the rural household destroying whatever is remaining of our culture and heritage. Generations of farmers would be in great peril and in the end the project would help only the elite sections of the society.

All said and done, the present government's dispute with the company is not for safeguarding the farmers' interests or of the common masses but to secure the more than 2000 acres of excess lands acquired by the company, as those lands belong to influential and affluent sections of the society and with booming real estate market, this land has become a gold mine .The ‘sons of the soil' have no tears left for the poor farmers who live in penury. The only intention of the Kumarswamy Government's attempt to take over the project from the NICE company is to please the real estate mafia and the construction lobby. The Gowda family also reportedly owns a large amount of land in the disputed area. The judiciary put paid to Kumaraswamy's ambitions. The Supreme Court, on April 20, directed the state government to hand over all land required for the project as per the 1997 framework agreement. BJP, the coaltion partner of the JD(S), acting on behalf of the promoters, brokered a peace deal. The proposed bill to annul the SC verdict has been put off. The NICE went ahead with the inauguration of the first stretch of the freeway despite boycott from the ruling circles. But the confrontation is still on. All through the controversy, the JD(S)-BJP coalition has not raised a single word about speedy compensation to the affected farmers.

Various peoples' movements have launched a strident opposition to the BMIC project and the strange factor is that even the left parties like CPI and CPI(M) have resorted to total silence about the whole issue.

 – N Divakar