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Assembly passes amendment to crucial land reforms act

Assembly passes amendment to crucial land reforms act
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Assembly passes amendment to crucial land reforms act

Highlights

The Karnataka Legislative Assembly on Saturday passed amendments to the land reforms act that liberalized farmland ownership, despite opposition Congress strongly opposing it, with some party members tearing copies of the bill, and staging a walkout calling it a "black law."

Bengaluru: The Karnataka Legislative Assembly on Saturday passed amendments to the land reforms act that liberalized farmland ownership, despite opposition Congress strongly opposing it, with some party members tearing copies of the bill, and staging a walkout calling it a "black law."

The contentious Karnataka Land Reforms (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020 that further amends the act of 1961, removing almost all restrictions on buying farmlands was passed by the assembly with a voice vote. The bill passed today replaces an ordinance to this effect promulgated by the government in July. The act passed today, repeals Section 79(A) that sets a limit of non-agricultural income at Rs 25 lakh to buy agricultural land, Section 79(B) that bars non-agriculturists from purchasing agricultural lands, and Section 79 (C) that deals with penalty for falsely claiming eligibility to hold agricultural land. It also makes certain amendments to Section 80 and states that the Class-A irrigated land (irrigated with water from a dam) can be used only for agricultural purposes. It also inserts a new Section 80 (A) which states that no conditions laid in this act shall be relaxed in respect of lands granted to persons belonging to the SC/STs, during the period of the prohibition under the Karnataka SC and ST (Prohibition of Transfer of Certain Lands), Act, 1978. Commending the bill for the consideration of the House, Revenue Minister R Ashoka, however, at the last moment withdrew an amendment to Section 63 mentioned in the bill, which raised the cap on ownership of farmland. "We will retain what is there in the original act, following the suggestion from members, I am bringing that amendment to the bill..ceiling for a family of four will remain 54 acres and for a larger family, it will be 108 acres," he said.

The government in the bill had proposed to increase the ceiling from 10 units (one unit of land is 5.4 acres) to 20 units for a family up to four people, and from 20 units to 40 units for large families above five people. Farmers' organizations and opposition parties had expressed concern that an increase in the ceiling would enable large corporates to buy land in bulk, which will be detrimental to farmers and rural economies. Noting that the amendments have been brought as the sections were not helpful to farmers, the Minister, speaking on the bill, said it was being used to harass farmers and others. He said the bill will help those interested in agriculture but don't belong to agrarian families to do farming. It will also help in bringing in new techniques and modernize agriculture, increase the production of foodgrains and agriculture exports. Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah, alleging that the government has brought these amendments in haste, said it is a death knell to farmers. He pointed out that farmers are holding protests against the bill and have called for Karnataka bandh on September 28. Amid a walkout by the opposition Congress and JD(S), the Karnataka assembly on Saturday approved the amendment to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act, which allows private players to directly approach farmers to purchase agricultural produce.

Both Congress and the JD(S) alleged that the government was succumbing to the pressure of corporates and multinational companies. Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah said the private secretary to Union Home Minister Amit Shah had on May 4 2020 written to the state government, asking it to introduce bills to amend the APMC and labour reforms "Farmers have not demanded the bill," he said.

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