The Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project has been the most spun story of our times. The promoters would like the public to think that it is god’s gift to humankind—and that it has been backed by the High Court and the Supreme Court in its fight against crooked politicians, bureaucrats and other vested interests.
On the other hand, the State Government would like the public to think that the expressway is just a charade for powerful real estate sharks. By wanting to bring in legislation to override the HC and SC verdicts, it claims it is only championing the cause of farmers whose lands have been taken away for a song.
PALINI R. SWAMY, who has pored through the papers of both sides, says the issue is not as clear-cut as it seems. Here, he offers 10-point guide on the BMIC—a guide that cuts through the clutter and throws light on facts that have gotten buried under a welter of claims and counter-claims:
1) The Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Karnataka Government and NICE (Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise) in 1995 for setting up an expressway between Bangalore and Mysore. The total size of the land for the project was 18,313 acres. It consisted of 5,119 acres for peripheral road, link road, expressway and eight interchanges, and 13,914 acres for five townships.
2) When the original framework agreement was signed on April 3, 1997, an additional 1,880 acres was added for the peripheral road, link road and expressway part of the project. There are no records in the government to show why more land was added. Which means that just the road development part of the project was now as much as 6,999 acres.
3) Apparently, the then public works secretary was the man behind such creative arithmetic. When he retired a year later, he is said to have been made a consultant to NICE.
4) When NICE was taken to court over the the addition of land, the High Court gave the verdict in favour of NICE.
5) Armed with the HC judgment, a month later, the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (KIADB) which was headed by M.K. Shankarlinge Gowda, who is now the IT secretary, changed the contours of the project.
6) The private land part of the project which was 13,237 acres now got expanded to 21,000 acres. Interestingly, most of this additional land is situated around Bangalore. Therefore, a total of 9,643 acres of excess land, which was not part of the earlier framework approved by the Government, was given to the project. As per current market value, the excess land amounts to over Rs 9,000 crore. So, the total land awarded to the project now stands at 27,957 acres.
7) As per the agreement, NICE has to return the toll road to the government after 30 years. What it means is that NICE should give back the entire 27,957 acres to the state government. However, the promoters of the project argue that they will give back the land except 1,880 acres which in fact is the additional land given by KIADB and is not part of the original framework.
8) But farmers claim that the excess notified land should in fact be returned to them as it is not part of the earlier framework agreement. They claim that 111 km of expressway has been allotted 4,528 acres of land, the peripheral road has been allotted 2,193 acres (41 km) and the link road has been allotted 278 acres ( 9.8 km). This amounts to 6,999 acres.
9) For the peripheral as well as the link roads, the private land notified for the project is 2,569 acres while the government land notified for the project is 1,117 acres. This totalls upto 3,686 acres. If one subtracts 2,471 acres (2,193 + 278) from 3,686 acres, what remains is 1,215 acres. This the farmers claim amounts to land grabbing as this is not necessary for the project nor was it part of the original framework.
10) Neither the Supreme Court judgment this year nor the High Court judgment last year are in favour of NICE. Both judgments merely say that the promoters and the State Government should stick to the original framework. It is this that has emboldened the Kumaraswamy government to move legislation to take over the excess land.
Because there is nothing in the original framework that okays the allotment of additional land.