Karnataka leases 12000 acres agricultural land for 25 years – producing solar energy

Praised by prime minister Narendra Modi, the unique land ‘acquisition’ process to set up the nation’s biggest solar park at Pavagada in Tumakuru district was emulated by other states to avoid legal wrangles that are generally involved in land acquisition processes. Unlike the regular method of acquiring land from farmers by paying compensation to them, the government chose to obtain the required 12,000 acres on lease for 25 years, while allowing the farmers to retain ownership of the land.

However, half-way through the implementation of the project, the ambitious project is now riddled with land troubles. Spurred by sentiments towards their lands, Pavagada farmers are increasingly refusing to part with their ‘full land’ for the state’s ambitious project. While the Karnataka Solar Power Development Corporation (KSPDC) has obtained the lease consent from the land owners, farmers’ latest decision to retain part of the land has affected the project from continuing smoothly.

A few others’ refusal to give ‘right of way’ for installation of towers or transmission lines has also resulted in bitter clashes among locals and the private company engineers and vendors – which has caused tension in the solar park area. A farmers’ consultation meeting on Wednesday in Pavagada with energy minister DK Shivakumar saw farmers vehemently refusing to give away their complete lands for the project.

The worried minister has directed the assistant commissioner and deputy commissioner of Tumakuru district to assess such extent of land and get farmers to Vidhana Soudha for a possible solution. Peeved by the incidents of locals assaulting electrical engineers and workers, Shivakumar has warned that the government may have to use police force to prevent such incidents to avoid any setbacks to the state government’s ambitious project.

Our life is linked to the land, don’t snatch it completely!

Although the government has only obtained the land for the project on a lease basis while allowing farmers to retain the ownership, the land would completely be altered by the companies while installing panels and towers, leaving no scope for farmers to take up anything in the area for 25 years.

Chinna Raju, a farmer from Rayacharlu village, appealed: “Out of the 100 acres plot, I have given 90 acres for the project. I have no intentions to give another 10 acres where we have buried our parents and grandparents. I have three children to look after and I need that part to support the family as I have nothing to rely on.”

Yet another farmer from Balasamudra said, “While I have given over 40 acres for the project, another 10 acres abuts the state highway and the main road. It has more value, and I need it to support my family as the region has been drought-stricken for over six-years.” A few others have argued that some patches of land are under irrigation and they do not want to seal their future by handing over everything.

The government’s selected acquisition of land has also been slammed by the farmers, who have been pressurising the authorities to ‘acquire’ their lands, too.

DP Channakeshava, president of the Venkatammanahalli gram panchayat, said, “Our village is the last revenue village of Karnataka. As the area is naxal-infested and suffering from prolonged drought, there is nothing that we can cultivate. During the survey, officials had revealed that they would take over our land too. But during actual acquisition, our lands had been left out for no reason. Why can’t the government take over our lands, too?”

A senior official from KSPDC said, “Initially, these farmers demanded Rs 50,000 per acre while the guidance value was Rs 20,000. Hence, they were side-lined and land was acquired where farmers were willing to give as per the government rate.” According to DK Shivakumar, the land has been taken on lease for Rs 21,000 per acre per year. “Not a single acre has been acquired, but obtained on lease-rental basis. The annual land lease rent is Rs 21,000 per acre escalated at 5 per cent on the base rate every two years.”

Supervising works at different locations of the solar park, Shivakumar said, “We have made an agreement for 600 Mw of power. Out of which, 500 Mw will be commissioned by July-August 2017, in the first phase. The bundled power will be purchased at Rs 3.30 per unit. National Power Grid Corporation (NPGC) has invested Rs 810 crore for setting up evacuation lines and transmission lines to draw power and supply to other parts of the state. This apart, the state government will also be spending Rs 800 crore for setting up eight sub-stations, infrastructure, light and roads in the area.”

Credits Bangalore Mirror

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