Translated by Dawood Shaikh.
“We can sacrifice our lives, but not our lands which give us food,” people of Ankola Taluk’s Alageri and surrounding villages say. These people have lost their lands for the sake of Navy, Railway, and National Highway projects. How can they sacrifice their homes for the sake of an airport? How will they survive? If the proposed airport is set up, Alageri-Ankola will be wiped off the map.
Of course, it worries the people of the Alageri. The villagers were distracted by the secret surveys – they lament that if the rulers are adamant to snatch away their lands, may the airport be built on the grave of their village. It is a unique village, where late farmer-leader Chutuku Brahma Dinakar Desai spent his early childhood. Ironically, the people who fought for freedom feel as though they are hanging in balance. With the woe of becoming victims, the people of Alageri are subjected to struggle.
Asia’s largest naval base is coming up between Ankola-Karwar. This Kadamba naval base certainly requires a military airbase. A few pundits, who are assuming that a military airbase would also be open for public, are calling it a two-in-one airport. They are saying that civil aircraft can also use this military airbase. The Department of Defense has chalked out a plan to acquire 202 Acres of land in Alageri, Bhavikeri and Belekeri areas. A survey has already been done on 160 Acres of land in Alageri, 12 acres in Bhavikeri and 30 acres in Belakeri.
In 1983, while laying the foundation stone for the naval base, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had said, “We will see to it that no affected people will shed a single tear.” But the tears of the people of Karwar-Ankola continued to flow for three decades since the naval base work began. The compensation amount fixed by the Department of Defense, which acquired thousands of acres of land, was only Rs. 150 per guntha.
Innocent victims were left in a barren rehabilitation center where crops cannot be harvested. No demagogue could come to the aid of these affected people who literally felt like a fish out of water. The representatives and irresponsible officials, who had declared that there would be a job for every family, appropriate aid, and a quota for victims, have gone missing. MP Anantkumar Hegde could not hear the groaning of the victims until now.
After struggling for 35 years, the affected people won a legal battle to get extra compensation. Now they are getting compensation. Ridiculously, MP Mane and former minister Deshpande are claiming credit for this. The airport has become a scarecrow in this community. It needs 500 Acres of land. Two to three families are living in huts in a guntha of land. There is fertile farmland, and groves of coconut trees. People are barely living, by doing coolie work, fishing, and through running small-scale businesses. The airport will swallow up all these things.
The people in power and their officials have not disclosed any reports on the airport, and on the map of the land acquired. The district administration has not presented survey reports before the public. Why is everything hidden? If this project comes into being, the people, who strongly believe in agriculture, will be thrown out on the streets due to the concretizing of 500 acres of their fields. There will be no chance to make use of the water during the rainy season. The overflowed rainwater wikk lead to floods in the surrounding villages. Floods will grip Ankola.
People resorted to protest against setting up this airport, which will cause much damage. Will the district administration, local MLA Roopali Naik, wake up before revolution grips peaceful Ankola?