Land Reforms Amendment Act passed in Karnataka Legislative Council with JDS support

The move has come as a shock to farmers in Karnataka, who say it is a “betrayal” by the JD(S).
Farmers protest
Farmers protest
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The contentious Land Reforms (Amendment) Act 2020 was passed in the Karnataka Legislative Council with the support of JD(S). The Bill was passed with 37 votes in its favour while 21 votes were cast against it in the Council The farmers expressed disillusionment in the JD(S), a party which has centred its political campaigns over the rights of farmers. Farmers held a flash protest at Maurya Circle in Bengaluru soon after the amendment was passed in the Council. The protesters called HD Kumaraswamy a “corporate agent” for extending his support. 

“Corporate agent BS Yediyurappa, down down. Mafia agent HD Kumaraswamy down down,” the protesters chanted. The protesters were detained by the police and taken away in buses. Farmer groups and pro-Kannada organisations have announced indefinite protests on Wednesday against the Karnataka government. 

The Land Reforms (Amendment) Act was passed in the Karnataka Assembly on September 26 this year amid staunch opposition from the Congress. During the monsoon session of the Assembly too, JD(S) leader and former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy had not outright opposed the amendment. He had said that he “would oppose” the amendment to the Act, “if it is detrimental to farmers”. 

On Tuesday, the JD(S) MLCs voted along with the BJP MLCs in the Council, ensuring that the controversial legislation was passed in both houses of the Assembly. The Act now requires the Governor’s nod, to be notified in the Gazette. 

Why is the Land Reforms Amendment Act being opposed? 

The Land Reforms Amendment Act became a point of contention due to several changes that were brought to the Land Reforms Act of 1967 outlined below.

1. Waiving of section 79(a) and 79(b), which restricted the purchase of agricultural land to only those who had paani i.e. land titles or were agriculturalists with an annual income of less than Rs 25 lakh. Farmers have been 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.

2. Waiving of section 79(c), which upheld the prosecution of those found guilty of buying agriculture by violating the restrictions. Farmers believe that repealing section 79(c), would mean that those who illegally purchased agricultural land, will not be prosecuted. 

3. Adding section 109, the amendment now permits persons to own 52 acres of irrigated agricultural land, 80 acres of partly irrigated land, 120 acres of dry land and 216 of barren land simultaneously, which could lead to land hoarding.

4. This amendment will now permit all companies or organizations, who have purchased agricultural lands to convert it for industrial use, and to sell such land to any other organization. 

Farmers lash out at JD(S)

Angered by the JD(S)’ move, farmer leaders called it a “betrayal” and expressed shock regarding the party’s support for a legislation staunchly opposed by farmers. 

“It is very unfortunate that the JD(S) supported a legislation that is against farmers. This is also a major blow to our movement. 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,” Kodihalli Chandrashekar, President of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha said. 

Watch: JD(S) supports land reforms amendment act in Legislative Council, farmers protest

On Tuesday, farmers from across the state had come to Bengaluru and gathered outside town Hall to protest the three controversial farm laws passed by the Union government. While Congress President DK Shivakumar and the Youth Congress joined the protest against the three legislations, the JD(S) was not present to offer its support. Farmer leaders had noted earlier today that it was shocking. “We are protesting here and trying to tell the government that we are being targeted. It is the duty of the opposition to point out the mistakes of the ruling government. It is unfortunate that the JD(S) is not extending support towards farmers,” Chandrashekar said. 

Massive protests announced for Wednesday 

The farmers are holding a massive rally on Wednesday in Bengaluru from the Sangolli Rayanna Railway Station in Majestic to Vidhana Soudha. Farmers are planning to hold wooden sticks and march all the way to Vidhana Soudha and lock its gates as the Assembly session is slated to take place at the time. “We are protesting tomorrow because the draconian Land Reforms Act has been passed. We have been opposing this since the government brought in the ordinance earlier this year. Why is Yediyurappa, who claims to stand for farmers’ rights, not understand our plight” Chandrashekar questioned. 

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