After Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to repeal the three contentious farm laws, farmer groups in Karnataka are pressing the state’s ruling BJP to follow suit and withdraw two farm legislations, including an amendment to the APMC Act, it had pushed through last year.
In September 2020, amid protests, Karnataka’s BJP government had passed the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMCs) Amendment Act by removing restrictions on selling outside the APMCs. This legislation had come alongside the land reform amendment which removed restrictions on the purchase of agricultural land in the state.
With the Centre’s roll-back, Karnataka will naturally have to withdraw the APMC amendment, said G C Bayyareddy, convenor of Samyuktha Horata, a coalition of farmer groups and trade unions in Karnataka, at a press conference on Saturday (November 20). “Then we can take a call on withdrawing our protest,” said Bayyareddy.
The Samyuktha Horata says it has given a call for a ‘national highway bandh’ in the state on November 26 – which marks the first anniversary of the nationwide farmers’ stir – to also press for the rollback of the legislations in Karnataka, said Bayyareddy.
The state government is awaiting a word from the Centre on the matter, Karnataka Law Minister J C Madhuswamy was quoted as saying. The winter session of the state legislature is scheduled to start on December 13.
Farmer leader Kurbur Shanthakumar, who is aligned to the Samyuktha Kisan Morcha, a separate coalition of farmer groups, says there has been a 50 percent drop in revenue at the APMCs and some have even shut operations in the past year. “Many of those who were earlier selling at the APMCs are now going elsewhere,” he said. While this has, in turn, affected the livelihood of labourers, there have also been instances of farmers getting cheated, he says.
Farmer groups point out that land transactions have increased, and so have land prices, since the restrictions on purchasing farmland was removed. “Not only around Bangalore, this is happening all over Karnataka. Farmers under distress especially during the coronavirus pandemic have had no alternative but to sell their land,” says Shanthakumar, who heads the Karnataka Sugarcane Growers’ Association.
The Samyuktha Kisan Morcha is demanding the repeal of the APMC and land reforms amendment in Karnataka apart from the demand for minimum support price (MSP) guarantee. “News reports have said the state government might review these laws. So, we are giving a deadline to the Chief Minister to repeal them,” says Shanthkumar.