Cong to challenge changes in Karnataka farmland law

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Cong to challenge changes in Karnataka farmland law

Bengaluru: Upping the ante, the opposition Congress has decided to challenge the Karnataka government ordinance that allows even non-farmers to buy agriculture lands, according to a senior party leader, here on Thursday.

“We will challenge the ordinance till the state government withdraws it. It’s against the farmers’ interests and favours corporate bodies and real estate sharks,” Congress legislative party leader Siddaramaiah said.

Changes were made to the Land Reforms Act, 1961 on July 13 through an ordinance and were notified after Governor Vajubhai R. Vala gave his assent. It permits non-farmers to buy farmland and grow food crops.

Alleging that it was a scam bigger than the multi-crore mining that rocked the state during the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s first tenure (2008-13), the former Congress Chief Minister said the new law would lead to Rs 50,000 crore farmland lost to vested interests.

While the mining scam was of Rs 35,000 crore, the imminent land scam would be of Rs 45,000-50,000 crore size, he said and added, 13,814 cases linked to transaction or buying of farmland by non-farmers were pending in courts across the state’s 30 districts.

“Assuming that each case involves 4 acres of farmland, the new law, applicable retrospectively, allows 55,256 acres of land to be sold at a cumulative value of Rs 45,000-50,000 crore,” claimed Siddaramaiah.

As some sections of the 1961 Karnataka Land Reforms Act prohibited sale of farmland to non-farmers, their repeal would enable petitioners to acquire land or legalise those already bought by them.

“The new law will destroy the farming community as corporate and real estate players will be the new owners of their lands. Their conversion or for non-agricultural use will cause fall in food production across the state,” Siddaramaiah said.

The ordinance made changes to sections 63 and 80 of the Act, while omitting sections 79A, B and C, which were added in 1974 under the Devaraj Urs government to protect farmers and ensure social justice.

“The timing of the ordinance is suspect. If the BJP government wanted to help farmers, it could have introduced it as an amendment bill when the Assembly is convened after the Covid-19 crisis,” reiterated Siddaramaiah.

“Sections 79 A, B and C of the Act have been repealed, paving way for bona fide citizens to invest in farmland and take to farming as a hobby, passion or additional occupation, which is rewarding,” said a government official.

The BJP, however, contended the amended Act would enable the state to attract investment in the farm sector and boost food output. The farm sector’s contribution to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) has been less than manufacturing and services sectors over the last two decades.

“Besides generating substantial revenue for the state government, the Act will now allow farmers who find the occupation non-remunerative and risky due to droughts/floods and labour shortage to sell their surplus land to urban buyers,” a revenue official said.

Hundreds of people who have been in diverse professions, like business, services, manufacturing, hospitality, education, health and teaching, will get an opportunity to take to farming and serve the nation./Eom/550 words.

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