Bellary, one of Karnataka's most backward districts making headlines these days over illegal iron ore mining, is all set to get an airport spread over 900 acres and costing Rs 140 crore.
The Karnataka government on Friday signed a deal with Chennai-based MARG Ltd to build the airport 20 km away from Bellary town.
"A farmer will lay the foundation stone for the airport on Aug 20," state Tourism Minister G Janardhana Reddy, a powerful mine owner from Bellary who is facing charges of illegal mining and export, told reporters after witnessing the signing of the deal here.
A farmer has been chosen to do the honours as land acquisition for the airport was opposed by a section of the farmers in the area.
There had been violent protests by farmers who had got support from Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar. She had addressed one of the meetings of the protesting farmers in November last year.
However, the government has acquired 900 acres and Reddy said compensation has been given to most farmers whose land had been taken over.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sushma Swaraj, whom Janardhana Reddy and his brothers Revenue Minister G Karunakara Reddy and legislator G Somashekara Reddy and their associate Health Minister B Sriramulu call as their 'thayi' (mother), will be present at the foundation ceremony.
The same day, BJP is also holding a rally in Bellary, where the Congress is organising a public meeting Aug 9 after its activists have walked all the way there from Bangalore to protest illegal mining.
The Congress activists began their 320-km march to Bellary July 25 and covering 20 km a day are reaching the iron ore rich district and Reddy brothers' political stronghold Aug 9.
Bellary, in the bottom 10 of the state's 30 districts according to Karnataka Human Development Index 2005-2009, has been familiar with choppers flying in and out almost daily. The Reddy brothers own a helicopter and have been staunch proponents of a full-fledged airport in the district.