Thursday, September 5, 2013

Protest against land take-over forces MAV contest postponement

Tuesday, Sep 3, 2013, 13:55 IST | Place: Bangalore, Chitradurga | Agency: DNA

Competition put off by six months; local residents set to protest today against the allotment of land to DRDO, IISc and BARC.
The drought-prone Amruta Mahal grazing reserve are perhaps the largest grazing grounds in the state. - DNA

Organisers of the MICAV-2013, a national level competition for Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) at the DRDO Test Range complex at Challakere in Chitradurga district, announced that the competition, scheduled to be held between June 17 and 19, would now be held in December.
The competition was postponed owing to opposition from the local residents and environment groups that are protesting allotment of the grazing land for Amruta Mahal breed of cattle, to three organization - Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), Indian Institute of Science(IISc) and Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC).

The protesters who are planning a massive rally on Tuesday want the land to be reserved exclusively as grazing fields for Amrit Mahal breed of cattle.

Fourteen teams, including city-based engineering colleges and institutions, private aerospace companies and defence laboratories, will participate in the MAV competition. The organisers also announced that more teams can participate in the competition through wild card entry.
Based on repeated requests from various competing teams from across the country, the organising committee meeting of the competition has decided to allow the participation of additional teams through wild card entry,” said one of the organisers.

Interested teams should register online by submitting their proposal along with photos and video links in PDF format on or before September 15. The shortlisted teams should be ready to give a flying demonstration in Bangalore scheduled during the first week of October.

Protest rally

The Jilla Amritmahal Kaval Horata Samiti, Chitradurga, which is opposing the Test Range Complex, said about 3,000 people of more than 40 villages are going to walk to Challakere to oppose the project, which they state would cause harm to the fragile environment and their livelihood.

The land has been allotted by the government without holding any public hearing. The proposed projects coming up on those lands were or highly scientific and strategic nature and will have no employment to offer to the local villagers.

The local people are now facing serious threat on their established livelihood on one hand and on the other they would face uncertain future due to lack of skills and ability to get skilled jobs” said Vinay Srinivasa of the Horata Samithi.

The Amruta Mahal grazing reserve are perhaps the largest grazing grounds in the state, if not in the country. The grazing reserve for Amruta Mahal cows and bulls endemic to Challakere, created over four centuries ago, extends to over 10,000 acres.

This expanse of land has now been walled and given away to DRDO, IISc and BARC. What worries the local people is that over 50,000 of them in 80 villages in Challakere stand to lose their livelihoods. “Being an arid land mass, Chitradurga in general and Challakere in particular, people here make a livelihood by animal husbandry. About 80% of the people are either shepherds or cowherds,” said president of the district Amrit Mahal Kaval Horata Samithi Dodda Ullarthi Kariyanna.

Travelling through the district, some of the areas resemble African shrub lands during the drought. “It always looks like this, we get only one or two showers in a year, which is just enough to get us some drinking water and grazing fields to get some greenery.
The diversion of grazing fields for infrastructure, defence and industrial purposes comes at a time when the Amrit Mahal breed of cattle were already showing decline in population,” said Shantakumar, secretary of the Samithi.

We are sure that none of us will get any benefits out of these projects and many of us will have to migrate to bigger cities and work as casual labourers,” said Bharamappa of Nayakanahatti village in Challakere taluk.

©2013 Diligent Media Corporation Ltd.

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