Ever since the BJP government in Karnataka headed by BS Yediyurappa approved the policy decision to amend the Karnataka Land Reforms Act (KLRA) on June 11 this year, farmers’ organisations and opposition parties have been raising their voice government’s move.
Various farmers’ organisations have launched protests against this amendment, holding banners with slogans like ‘Nammura Bhoomi Namagiriali (let our village land be with us)’ at differentvillages all across the state. The protests are likely to continue till August 8.
“The movement against the Amendment will go on till August 7 and 8, farmers will take out semi-naked protest rally in all district headquarters, across Karnataka, to draw the attention of the government,” said Kuruburu Shanthakumar, president of Rajya Kabbu Belegarara Sangha (State Sugarcane Growers Association).
Karnataka Land Reforms Act of 1961 had been amended and implemented in 1974 under the leadership of then Chief Minister Devraj Urs. As per the amendment, tenancy had been abolished and ceilings on landholdings were reduced. These changes were aimed at the redistribution of surplus land to tillers.
According to the new proposal, the government seeks to repeal Sections 79 (A), (B), (C), 80 and amend Section 63 of the KLRA which would dilute the vision for social justice of the 1974 legislation. Though the state cabinet has approved the proposal, it is yet to be introduced in the state Assembly.
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As per the Section 79 (A) of KLRA, the income of non-agriculturalist (or family) who intends to buy agricultural land should not exceed Rs 25 lakh. Again Section 79 (C) says that punitive action can be taken for falsifying eligibility in order to purchase agricultural land. Also, Section 80 clearly states that agricultural land cannot be used for non-agricultural purposes. Through amending Section 63, ceiling of landholdings for an individual and a family from the existing 108 will be increased to 216 acres.
According to a press briefing by Revenue Minister R. Ashok and Law Minister J.C. Madhuswamy, the proposed amendments would be introduced in the monsoon session of the Legislative Assembly. However, farmers organisations fear that the government will introduce these amendments through an ordinance.
Chief Minister Yediyurappa however claimed that “the amendments will improve the condition of farmers and help the State in attracting investments”.
Leader of the Opposition, Siddaramaiah, in his letter to the CM wrote, “If these amendments are passed, corporate companies can easily buy agricultural land,” along with a warning that statewide protests will be launched if the government did not drop the proposed amendments.
“The proposed amendments would destroy the very nature of the land reforms legislation in Karnataka. The State government has already amended Section 109 of the Act, facilitating easy sale and purchase of agricultural land for industrial use, in April. With this Cabinet decision in June, agricultural ownership will completely change in Karnataka,” said T. Yashavantha, state committee member of the Karnataka Pranta Raitha Sangha.
Experts also point out that the amendments would make significant changes in the ownership patterns of the agricultural land and it would allow corporates to purchase the agricultural land and ultimately the amendments would lead to the corporatisation of agriculture in the state.
However, some argue that the amendments would help the farmers to get more opportunities. “The ceiling of 250 acres is only in the interest of corporates. It seems to be a conspiracy of the government to promote the corporates. If the intention is to encourage new and young farmers, to buy lands, no individual will buy 250 acres. It could be below 10 acres,” said Shanthakumar.
The protesting farmers have also pointed out that if corporates enter farming, the price of lands will go up and individual buyers will not get affordable lands. Once the corporates get control of the farming land, they would dictate the entire farming sector and the farmers would have to suffer.
“The limit on buying lands should be reduced, to check corporate investment. Even for individual buyers, there should be a rider, to ensure that the land is not used for commercial purpose. The buyer should be mandated to cultivate on the land, one proposes to buy, for a certain period,” added Shanthakumar.