Go ahead for expressway

Published : May 19, 2006 00:00 IST

IN a damning indictment of the Karnataka government on the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project (BMICP), the Supreme Court rejected on April 20 its and others' appeals against a May 2005 Karnataka High Court order. It ruled that the Rs.2,250-crore, privately executed project should go ahead "within the letter and spirit" of the framework agreement (FWA) signed between the promoters and the State government in April 1997 and upheld by the High Court in the Someshekar Reddy judgment in August 1998.

Rebuking the government and its instrumentalities for putting forth "frivolous arguments" and conducting the litigation with "mala fides" both in the High Court and the Supreme Court, the three-judge Bench also ordered the State to pay the project's executors - Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE) - limited costs quantified at Rs.500,000 within four weeks. The Bench further slapped costs of Rs.50,000 each (in addition to a similar amount ordered by the High Court) on two legislators, J.D. Madhuswamy and G.V. Sreeramareddy, for filing the appeals.

The Supreme Court's decision not to interfere with the May 2005 judgment of the High Court means that the latter's directive to quash the Karnataka government's orders to constitute the K.C. Reddy Committee (and the reports that it submitted) on the question of excess land in and around Bangalore being allocated to the project has been upheld. The High Court, while directing NICE "to implement the project as expeditiously as possible," had also ordered that two senior bureaucrats, including then-Chief Secretary K.K. Misra "be prosecuted as envisaged by Section 340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for knowingly withholding important facts and documents from the court and making false statements in the affidavit filed in the court".

Despite the Supreme Court's orders being seen as an all-encompassing victory for the promoters and an embarrassing defeat for the government and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda's who prompted the state to constitute the K.C. Reddy Expert Committee (Gowda repeatedly questioned the extent of land that had been marked for the project), the situation may not be so simple. The H.D. Kumaraswamy government is yet to take a decision on whether to appeal against the decision.

Also, the question whether excess land to the extent of 2,450 acres (980 hectares), as claimed by the government in its plea to the courts, has been acquired is still to be resolved. So is the question whether NICE can alienate the land that is being given to it specifically for the BMICP.

Ironically, the crux of the issue debated in the courts was not so much the dislocation, resettlement and rehabilitation of over 200,000 people (only 20 per cent of whom own land and will be compensated) from 178 villages (many of which are in the fertile Maddur, Mandya, Srirangapatna and Mysore taluks) who will be affected by the project, but the extent of land in and around Bangalore that is being acquired by the government for NICE's requirements. The Bangalore lands are valued at between Rs.2 crores and Rs.3 crores an acre.

The BMICP, as per the FWA, involves the acquisition of 20,193 acres of private and government land for the construction of a four-lane, 111-km tolled expressway between Bangalore and Mysore, which would cut down the driving time between the two cities from the present four hours to 90 minutes.

The project also consists of a 41-km peripheral road, a 9.8-km link road, 17 interchanges and five self-sustainable townships. While the peripheral road will connect the Bangalore end of the expressway to National Highways 4 (Bangalore-Pune) and 7 (Bangalore-Hosur), the link road will connect Bangalore's city centre to the expressway.

According to an affidavit filed by Nandi in January 1998, the townships would come up on 13,194 acres of land, the 111-km expressway (including nine interchanges) on 4,528 acres of land, the peripheral ring road (including seven interchanges) on 2,193 acres and the link road (including one interchange) on 278 acres - a total of 6,999 acres.

But in February 2006, Nandi indicated that Section A of the project, consisting of the peripheral and link roads, 10 interchanges, 12 km of expressway and one township, would need 6,918 acres of land. With 2,775 acres needed for the first township, it leaves 4,143 acres of land required for the link and peripheral roads and 12 km stretch of expressway - a total of 63 km of road - and 10 interchanges. Critics wonder how NICE would build the remaining 99 km of expressway (and seven interchanges) with only 2,856 acres (6,999 minus 4,143). Accusing NICE of only being interested in lands around Bangalore, they aver that the promoters are not going to implement the project beyond Bidadi.

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