BS Yediyurappa
Former Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa is reportedly unhappy with the BJP for several reasons (file photo)

Karnataka to amend law to allow non-agriculturists to buy farmlands

The Karnataka government on Thursday decided to amend the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961 to allow non-agriculturists to purchase agricultural land and remove the clause on the ceiling on income from non-agriculture sources.

The Karnataka government on Thursday (June 11) decided to amend the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961 to allow non-agriculturists to purchase agricultural land and remove the clause on the ceiling on income from non-agriculture sources.

Now, anyone, including a trust, a society, an educational institution or a company, can buy farmlands in Karnataka, regardless of their income limits.

Briefing the media after a cabinet meeting, State Law Minister JC Madhuswamy said that the government will repeal Sections 79 (A) and (B) of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961 during the next assembly session in the state.

In 2015, the then Congress government led by Siddaramaiah had amended the Act to raise the annual income limit for purchase of land by non-agriculturists from ₹2 lakh to ₹25 lakh. Now the BJP plans to do away with the provisions.

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The BJP, then in the Opposition, had opposed the Bill saying it would defeat the very purpose of the Land Reforms Act.

The state government says that the amendments will give industries an easy access to purchase farmlands and that farmers will get better prices in case they wish to sell their land without involving intermediaries.

Farmers’ organisations have strongly opposed the proposed amendments and said they will launch a statewide protests before such a move is implemented. They also questioned the role of the Opposition which has been silent on this issue.

“This amendment is dangerous and politicians are throttling the farmers in the name of development. First, they amended the APMC Act and made us lose value for our crops. Once they made us lose our profession, they now want us to sell our land at cheaper prices,” said Kodihalli Chandrashekar, a farmer leader associated with the Karnataka Raitha Rajya Sangha.

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“This is nothing but a move to encourage corporates to buy land at cheaper prices and get into contract farming,” he said.

Chandrashekar added that such a move during a pandemic was done with a notion that people will not hit the streets to protest. “If we are left with no option, we will hit the streets and protest in front of the Vidhana Soudha. The government may file cases against us but that is not going to stop us,” he added.

Till now, only farmers were allowed to purchase farmlands directly from other farmers and institutional buyers had to go through government agencies like the industry development board to purchase such lands. The proposed amendment will reduce benami land ownership that currently exists due to the restrictions in place.

The state is pushing for “reforms” to attract investments and has even formed a special task force, headed by Chief Secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar, to lure companies wanting to exit China and invest in India.

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Though the Congress leaders haven’t opposed the proposed amendment, the party’s farmers’ cell has raised an objection and said they will join the farmers’ groups to protest against the government’s move. “This is a coordinated effort by the Centre and the State to dislodge the farmers,” said Sachin Meega of the Congress’s farmers’ cell.

The government claimed that the state has 98.95 lakh hectare agricultural land, including 22 lakh hectare land that is not used for farming.

“When it comes to exploiting farmers, be it the BJP or the Congress or the JD(S), they all have the same views. Why isn’t Siddaramaiah or other Congress leaders, who claim to be pro-farmers, come out and oppose?,” Chandrashekar asked.

“In the assembly, they may walk out. But the fact is that they will say they’re not against development and accept these changes. So what is the Opposition’s stand when the government is doing wrong,” he further asked.

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