The BJP government in Karnataka on Tuesday (December 8) passed the contentious Land Reforms legislation in the Legislative Council with the help of Janata Dal (Secular).
The support from former prime minister HD Devegowda and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy-led JD(S), which claimed to be a farmer-friendly party, came as a rude shock to farmers. The party workers were seen protesting against the bill when it was passed as an ordinance in July and on Tuesday along with the other protesting farmers.
While the legislation got stuck in the Council in September, the BJP needed the support of the JDS to get the bill passed. It re-promulgated it again with the governor’s assent in November.
The state had passed The APMC Amendment Bill, Land Reforms Bill and amendment to Industrial Disputes Bill in the Assembly. The bills, however, failed to sail through in the Council as the BJP did not have a majority.
While the JDS has been cosying up with the ruling BJP over the past couple of months, the decision to support the contentious farm legislation comes in the backdrop of both the parties teaming up to oust the Council chairman of the Congress.
Speculations are rife that the JD(S) support comes in exchange for the promise of chairman and deputy chairman’s post in the Council when the Congress person is ousted. They had planned to move a no-confidence motion against the chairman in the ongoing session.
In the 75-member Council, the BJP has 31 seats, the JDS 14 and the Congress 28 seats.
Amid a backlash from all quarters, the government passed the amendments to the Land Reforms Act allowing non-agriculturists to purchase agricultural land, besides easing a host of other restrictions.
The government defends the amendments even as farmers oppose the reforms, fearing corporate exploitation in the long run. Several protesting farmers and civil society members were detained by the police later in the day.
The amendment drops Sections 79A, 79B and 79C of the Act that imposed stringent restrictions on ownership of agricultural land. It also gives scope for huge land banks and aggregators to own land. It also removed the clause on the ceiling on income for buyers. Now, any Indian citizen, a trust, a society, an educational institution or a company can buy farmlands in Karnataka, regardless of their income limits.
The state government said the amendments will give industries easy access to purchase farmlands and that farmers will get better prices in case they wish to sell their land without involving intermediaries.