In a major change to the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961, the state Cabinet has decided to allow non-agriculturists to purchase agricultural land and to remove the cap on income from non-agricultural sources to do so. It has also increased the number of units of land a person can own.
Non-agriculturalists previously could not purchase agricultural property, though there were some exceptions, such as educational and religious institutions, companies and cooperative societies. Additionally, those with a background in agriculture, but having an annual non-agricultural income that exceeded Rs 25 lakh, could not purchase farm land as well.
This move will benefit high-salaried professionals in Bengaluru, particularly in the Information Technology sector, to buy land in Karnataka. Many such IT professionals had turned to buying land in other states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh due to the inflexible laws in Karnataka, Economic Times reported.
The income limit from non-agricultural sources was fixed to ensure that farmland is not misused. The Congress government-led by Siddaramaiah had amended the Act previously in 2015 increasing the income limit from non-agricultural sources to Rs 25 lakh. It was earlier just Rs 2 lakh. The BJP, then the principal Opposition in the state, opposed the bill claiming that the purpose of the Land Reforms Act will be void with such a move, The Hindu reported.
However, five years later, the BJP is now keen on adding more relaxations in the Act.
Briefing the decisions taken in the Cabinet meeting, Revenue Minister R Ashok and Law Minister JC Madhuswamy told reporters that the amendments will be made in the next session of the state legislature.
The Act currently imposes a cap of 10 units for a five-member family. This was changed to enable a five-member family to possess 20 units of land. Similarly, families with more members can hold up to 40 units of land, the ministers stated.
Anyone earning more than Rs 25 lakh through a non-agricultural source loses the tag of 'farmer' regardless of whether their family is involved in farming or not. The previous law requires agriculturists to sell farmland only to other agriculturists.
Over 80,000 court cases related to the sections of the Land Reforms Act under scrutiny are pending in various courts in the state.
Few months ago, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had amended the same Act allowing buying and conversion of agricultural land for industrial purposes within a 30-day time frame. This was opposed by the Congress, the opposition party in the state.
Similarly, Congress had also registered its opposition to the BJP's decision amending the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act.