The Karnataka government on Tuesday passed the controversial Land Reforms (Amendment) Act in the Legislative Council with support from the Janata Dal Secular, which had earlier opposed the amendments but whose 10 votes proved key for the ruling BJP.
The Act was passed by 37 votes to 21 with nine members of the Congress absent; the party said it would destroy the rural economy.
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.
The Act had been passed by the Karnataka Assembly in September after the Congress tore up papers and staged a walkout. “They want to keep the farmers as slaves so we are opposing this tooth and nail,” DK Shivakumar, chief of the party’s state unit, had told NDTV after the walkout.
The Land Reforms Act removes almost all restrictions on the purchase of agricultural land, paving the way for industrialists (or any other individual) to purchase agricultural land directly from the farmers, pending government clearance.
Earlier agricultural land was purchased via the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board, and its sale was governed by multiple conditions, including non-agricultural income of the purchaser.
The passing of the Land Reforms Act comes on the same day that farmers across the country (and in Karnataka too) took part in a “Bharat bandh” to protest the centre’s contentious farm laws.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been on the warpath since September, saying the new laws will rob them of MSP (minimum support price) safety net and leave them at the mercy of corporates.
Farmers and the centre have held five rounds of talks to resolve the situation, with discussions stalling over the farmers’ demand for immediate recall of all three laws; the centre says it will not do that but has offered to amend more problematic sections. A sixth round will be held Wednesday.
A section of farmer leaders also met Home Minister Amit Shah Tuesday night.
With input from PTi