Constitutional measures to ensure fair compensation and livelihood security to the land losing refugees of development processes, overlook the complexity of ‘public purpose’ — the dominant rationale behind operationalising ‘eminent domain’ of the state. Popular perception of public purpose as urbanisation muffles the de facto social citizenship around plural values of agricultural landscapes.
Ignoring the enduring public purposes served by agrarian landscapes aids in underestimating the longterm welfare impacts on displaced farmers.
This essay presents the impact of land acquisition for the Bengaluru International Airport on the agropastoral communities of Devanahalli. Visible changes in the landscape came with major uncertainties in their lives and livelihoods for over two decades now.
The paper aims to contribute to the recent and connected theses around agrarian urbanism and plural values of landscapes, with narratives from Devanahalli. In what was almost a non-controversial choice of location for the airport, people from villages to the north of Bengaluru city lost their land fully or partly, along with their habitat, village community and food cultures.
In this study, narratives of representative cases of impact inflicted on different groups were collated and synthesised through short-term longitudinal interviews. It showcases prolonged struggles to find secure livelihoods amidst persisting caste and gender divides, weakening cultural fabric and a loss of identity.
Together they precipitate one-part farmers in the displaced and scattered people who still find a weak but persistent identity in agriculture. The paper concludes by deriving pointers on avoiding, minimising, and mitigating potential impacts of projects involving inevitable displacement of agro-pastoral communities.
This working paper is an output from the project titled “Ecosystem Services, Agriculture Diversification and Small Farmers’ Livelihood in the Rural-Urban Interface of Bengaluru,” under the Indo-German Collaborative Research project (FOR2432).