BENGALURU: A feeling of despondency prevails among the people of Devanahalli, the birthplace of Tipu Sultan. The place is located very close to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) of Bengaluru, and had parted with 2,481 acres of land for the airport. Every time a flight takes off or lands, the villagers of Devanahalli are reminded that the raising of the airport — which recently broke its own revenue and passenger traffic records — has not really delivered for them what they initially thought it would. With the airport, the land prices in the neighbourhood soared, and many land-holding Devanahalli residents sold their lands to realtors looking to set up residential projects or commercial ventures like resorts or hotels.
But over the years, most of the 188 villages of Devanahalli taluk have been reeling under lack of infrastructure. Not that the international airport project destroyed their lives, but it spelt a marked disparity between the better-heeled fliers with the provision of an international flight connectivity hub, and the villagers who continue to live with interrupted power supply, lack of drinking water, schools or even overhead water tanks.
Shanthamurthy P, a representative of Devanahalli Residents’ Welfare Association, says the government acquired the land from many farmers in 1995 to build the airport. Rs 5 lakh was paid per acre as compensation. Many among them who lost their lands did find employment with KIA. But their salary is not more than 10,000 per month now. Some of them bought some other lands in nearby taluks while some others enjoyed life buying vehicles and LED TVs. But today, their situation is very pathetic.
The despair in their eyes is too visible to hide, and there is a degree of helplessness too.
For the villagers of this taluk, the assembly election of 2018 is just like another election as they think — and are probably justified at that — that political leaders never visit them after the election results are announced.
G Marappa, Dalit Sangharsh Samiti (DSS) activist who is a resident of Devanahalli, says, "The people of Devanahalli are struggling to get drinking water due to collapse of ground water. We think no one will solve this problem.”
Sarojamma and her friend Muniyappa, both slum dwellers, say, "Recently we attended some political party rally and were paid Rs 200 each for spending six hours there. We wonder why they do not spend to solve basic civic problems instead of spending crores of rupees for publicity." For next five years they will not approach us once they win in the election as it is a universal truth." they added.
Coconut vendor Mohan Kumar told The New Indian Express, "We feel that election is only meant for political party workers. It has never been useful for the public or for any development. It is a good opportunity for party supporters who make easy money. So we do not think it (the assembly polls) is a special occasion for us.”
The demands for adequate drinking water and better infrastructure have been making rounds from the time much before the airport was even planned; and now, even after almost a decade of the airport being operational, they seem to have not seen the kind of development that they had dreamt of when the gave up their lands for the airport, dreaming of a better future.
Understandably, they have little interest in the electoral process — and even voting.
And yet there is that expected little drama ahead of elections you see now and then in which people participate in droves. On April 17, when The New Indian Express visited this area, Devanahalli town witnessed a couple of protests held by supporters of Congress party workers who were upset about not getting MLA tickets.
A group of men walked about half a kilometre shouting slogans against former Union Minister M Veerappa Moily. It was more like frustration of a bigger nature hiding below the surface. Their favourite candidates not getting tickets to contest the polls was a trigger to bring out that frustration.
In the background, the sitting MLA Pilla Munishamappa of JD(S) is presently busy preparing for his daughter’s wedding — scheduled for April 24 — and is preoccupied with that.
But wedding or no wedding, the people of Devanahalli feel the politicians who got their votes in the past hardly found time to develop the infrastructure to make life better for the taluk’s people.