On November 9, hundreds of farmers sat in complete silence in the corridors of the Deputy Commissioner’s office in Mangaluru, without causing any disruptions in the office, protesting against the fourth phase expansion of Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited. This protest was organised by the members of Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samiti (KBSS), with support from the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRSS). The sit-in started at 10:00 a.m. and went on for next seven hours.
Hundreds of farmers, especially from Kuthethooru and Permude, the villages where the MRPL expansion is all set to begin, took part in this protest. Social activist Vidya Dinker was also present. The people concerned about the issue showed their support by delivering food to the protesters in the DC office. The seven-hour-long protest was a success, as Sasikanth Senthil S., Deputy Commissioner of Dakshina Kannada district was finally forced to relent and send a letter to the government of Karnataka.
Earlier this week, on November 5, there was another massive protest outside the DC’s office, in which farmers, fishermen, and members of various organisations took part with the same demand. The protesters accused that the land acquisition process is being conducted in an illegal manner by the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB). At the protest, William D’Souza of Krishi Bhoomi Samrakshana Samiti addressed the crowd.
He said, “We will not give our land for the fourth phase expansion of MRPL at any cost. Fertile farm land in Kuthethooru and Permude villages have been notified for land acquisition by the authorities. In spite of submitting a comprehensive report on the ill-effects of the expansion of industries to the ecologically sensitive region, the authorities are going ahead with the land acquisition process. The KIADB, in the past had already acquired enough land for industrial purposes. This is idle even to this day. The land which had already been acquired should be used for the fourth phase expansion of MRPL.”
While addressing the protesters, T R Bhat, the spokesperson of Karnataka Jan Abhivruddhi Forum said that before the preliminary land acquisition notification was issued, the farmers had been assured by MRPL and ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited) officials that they would be paid compensation as per the package fixed by the government. Hence, most of the farmers had given a conditional approval for the acquisition of their land.
“Later, at the time of joint measurement of land, a meeting was held between members wherein the officials promised that those who stand to lose land will get around Rs. 80 lakh to Rs. 1.2 crore per acre as per the Land Acquisition and Resettlement Act 2013. But during the recent meeting, discussions were held to pay compensation ranging between Rs. 50-55 lakh according to the old guidelines. The losers of land should be compensated properly,” said Bhat.
Previously in 2008, the farmers had to protest against land acquisition for MRPL third-phase expansion as well. That battle was finally won by them in 2011. In 2015, the same issue arose, but the farmers are determined to fight and protect their land this time too.