New Land Reforms Act Sparks Fresh Farmers’ Protest in Karnataka
This new act removes almost all restrictions on the purchase of agricultural land.
A day after the Bharat Bandh against the controversial farm laws, multiple groups of farmers are gathering in Bengaluru, to march towards the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, 9 December. The protest called by farmer groups and pro-Kannada organisations is against the Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Act, 2020, which was passed in the Upper House of the state on Tuesday night.
This new act removes almost all restrictions on the purchase of agricultural land, allowing industrialists or any other individual to purchase agricultural land directly from the farmers.
Since Monday morning, several protesters have been gathering near the Bangalore Central railway station, following the calls to march to Vidhan Soudha. A large police force has been deployed outside Legislative Assembly and at the railway station. So far, the protesters have not been allowed to march towards Vidhan Soudha by the police, and they have been asked to shift to an alternative protest site.
Some farmer unions have alleged that those coming from different districts are being stopped from entering Bengaluru. “Police have gone to farmers’ homes in Tumkur and stopped them from attending the protest. Many farmers have been detained at the Tumkur toll gate, Nelamangala toll gate and Ramanagara. They were asked to go back. This is intimidation” Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha Convener Anand Patel said.
Controversial Land Reforms Act
The Act had been passed by the Karnataka Assembly in September after the Congress tore up papers and staged a walkout. However, the Bill had earlier been stalled in the Council – the upper house – despite the Legislative Assembly clearing it.
On Tuesday, the Bill was passed with Council by 37 votes to 21, with nine members of the Congress absent. The JDS's support was crucial for the BJP, which does not have the numbers in the Legislative Council. In the 75-member body, the BJP has 31 members to the Congress's 28 and the JDS's 14.
Soon after, Farmers held a flash protest at the Maurya Circle in Bengaluru soon after the Amendment was passed in the Council, calling JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy a “corporate agent”.
Why are Farmers Opposing the Act?
The amendment to the Act removes Sections 79 A, B and C of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961, which restricted farmland purchases only to agriculturists and to those earning below Rs 2 lakh per annum.
Earlier, as per 79(a) and 79(b), any person or family with an annual income of over Rs 25 lakh from sources other than agricultural lands were not entitled to acquire and hold agricultural lands in Karnataka. 79(c) upheld the prosecution of those found guilty of buying agriculture by violating the restrictions
Farmers have opposed to this amendment as they believe that large corporations would be able to buy agricultural land. Farmers fear that they will be coerced and threatened to give up their land.
Political Reactions: Farmers Slam JD(S)
Kodihalli Chandrashekar, President of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, said that the legislation is against farmers. “We farmers have been suffering due to multiple legislations passed by the Union and state governments. In such times, we expect opposition leaders to hold the government accountable. The JD(S) was known for supporting farmers and what they have done is a betrayal and unfortunate,” he said.
However, Kumaraswamy said that there is an attempt to paint his party as anti-farmer. “Their people did not call me a farmer lover when in just 14 months I pardoned Rs 25,000 crore farmer loans,” he told reporters.
“Yes, Mr Deva Gowda and I opposed the bill when it came initially. However, based on the recommendation I made in the last session of the Assembly, this Bill has been reworked,” he added.
Ready for Talks: Karnataka CM
Talking in Bengaluru, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa said: “I have a request to farmer leaders, you have held a protest in the name of Bharat Bandh yesterday (Tuesday). But how justified it is to hold protests every day, is an important question. So, there is no permission for holding such protests repeatedly. Please cooperate with the government,” he said.
Adding that the government is open to talks, he said, “Whatever it may be, let’s sit and discuss. BJP thinks of the farmers more than you. Narendra Modi is trying double the profits of the farmers. In such a situation, holding protests that would cause inconvenience to people is not right.”
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