The monsoon session of the Karnataka Assembly began on Monday (September 21) amid a sea of protests from opposition parties, farmers, Dalit organisations and labourers across the state over the contentious agriculture-related bills passed by the Centre and the State.
While the monsoon session was supposed to last for 10 days, it will now be curtailed to six days with the session ending September 26. The government announced the decision after taking the Opposition parties into confidence.
Amid backlash from all quarters, the BJP government in Karnataka promulgated the Land Reforms Ordinance, 2020, in July to allow non-agriculturists to purchase agricultural land, besides easing a host of other restrictions.
Meanwhile, following protests in Haryana and Punjab, now farmers in the southern states have taken to streets to protest against the Centre’s new farm bills.
Freedom fighter H S Doreswamy, aged 102, along with political activist Yogendra Yadav and their supporters who sat on dharna in Bengaluru strongly opposed the proposed legislations and condemned the sweeping manner in which the bills were passed without consulting the stakeholders and without much debate.
The protesting farmers vowed to intensify their fight and decided to sit on a dharna until the session ends on Saturday.
Farmer leader Kodihalli Chandrashekar said both the Centre and the State were playing to the demand of the corporations and multinational companies and that the impact will spell a doom for the agrarian sector. “We’ll protest day and night until the session ends. We will not step back until our demands are met and the government decides to change its stand,” he said.
Activist Vinay Sreenivasa said since 1998 about 5.9 lakh hectares of land in Karnataka has been lost. Citing an example of Kerala, once a rice-rich state now turning to other states for rice stock, he asked the government to plan policies for the farmers and not discourage them from continuing with farming.
Meanwhile, the All India Central Council of Trade Unions wrote to Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa and sought to withdraw the “anti-labour policies” — the Industrial Disputes and the Karnataka Land Reforms Amendment Ordinances.
With nearly 30 bills tabled in the Assembly, there’s limited time for discussion of the bills. The parties have decided to debate on six of the 30 bills in detail during the session.
The House witnessed 60 per cent attendance as about 50-60 MLAs had skipped the session due to some testing COVID-19 positive and some in home isolation.
Former Chief Minister and opposition leader (Congress) Siddaramaiah said that the decision of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government to pass the three farm bills, without adequate consultation of stakeholders and debates in both the houses, is the “evilest act to destabilise the foundations of democracy.”
In a series of tweets, Siddaramaiah said that more than 80 per cent of the farmers are small and marginal, they are most vulnerable and need government support to sustain. “APMC was protecting them. Without APMCs, they are left in no man’s land,” he said.
Besides, with only 6 per cent farmers in India having access to APMCs, Siddaramaiah said that if the government really wanted to help the farmers, they can allow private entities to open markets and let the regulatory authority remain with APMCs.
“There will be no control on the traders and trade practices outside APMC premises. APMC will lose the control to impose levy. This is the complete surrender of state governments,” he said.
“The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, is an attempt to empower private players with supreme power to procure produce from farmers without any regulation. This is a one sided policy that threatens the survival of farmers.”
Meanwhile, Karnataka Congress president DK Shivakumar, speaking to reporters, said the government should come clean on various issues.
“About 30 bills are tabled and nearly 1,600 questions listed in the Council and Assembly. They are supposed to answer them. There are corruption issues, failure in handling the pandemic, biggest scam in purchasing medical equipment, GST and state finances issues. We wanted to discuss all that. But now they are reducing the session time,” he added.