Corridor dispute: It’s over land, stupid! (Lead, With image)By IANS
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
BANGALORE - At the heart of the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project, currently the crux of an ugly row between former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, is a dispute over 20,000 acres of prime land. The four-lane expressway and the ambient infrastructure that includes industries, townships and office complexes has been 15 years in the making.
The Rs.2,000 crore project, including a four-lane express highway from the state capital Bangalore to the city of palaces Mysore with a provision to expand it to six lanes, involves over 20,000 acres of precious land. There have been charges that politicians, bureaucrats and others either have land or have acquired it after the project was approved in 1995 to make a killing once it takes off or is completed.
The new route cuts down the 140 km travelling distance between Bangalore and Mysore by about 30 km and the time taken from three to two hours.
The corridor will have five townships with a population of 100,000 each, a township for corporate headquarters, offices and research and development facilities, an industrial centre, a heritage centre and an eco-tourism centre.
The expressway is a ‘build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT)’ model, with the promoters collecting toll for 30 years and then transferring the ownership to the state government.
Deve Gowda, who triggered a storm recently by referring to Yeddyurappa as a bloody b*******, had signed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the project in February 1995 when he was chief minister with a consortium of Indian and US firms with industrialist Baba Kalyani’s Kalyani Group of companies in the lead.
The Kalyani Group set up Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE) with a partner to implement the project in 1997.
The project has dented the reputation of five chief ministers — Deve Gowda, his successor J.H. Patel of the Janata Dal, S.M. Krishna and N. Dharam Singh of the Congress, Gowda’s son H.D. Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) and now Yeddyurappa of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The controversy started with allegations of acquisition of around 9,000 acres of land more than the about 20,000 acres sanctioned. It now revolves around 2,500 acres of excess land.
The issue has been fought in the high court and the Supreme Court with NICE winning the case.
On Monday, the apex court asked the state government to explain in two months why the project was stalled. It was hearing a petition by NICE to initiate contempt proceedings against seven state government officials for stalling the project.
The Yeddyurappa government has got two months from the apex court to respond to its query on why the project is stalled but it is unlikely to have any reprieve from Gowda, particularly after his outburst during a protest by farmers against the project.
Farmers at Hemmigepura, on the outskirts of Bangalore, had been blocking a stretch of NICE road for four days. Gowda joined them on the fifth day. Next day he went to Kolkata to visit ailing Marxist veteran Jyoti Basu.
On the seventh day, Gowda hogged the nation’s attention with his invectives, completely sidelining Hemmigepura farmers and their protest.