BENGALURU: The State Government’s decision to amend the Karnataka Land Reforms Act has come under fire from opposition parties and farmer associations that are threatening to protest against the proposed changes that will allow non-agriculturists to buy agriculture land. Defending the decision, Revenue Minister R Ashoka said the government is committed to protecting farmers’ interests and ensuring development of industries at the same time. There is no need for any apprehension and the government will reach out to the opposition to take them into confidence, he told The New Sunday Express.
Why has the government decided to make changes in the Land Reforms Act?
We decided to amend the Act to ensure growth of agricultureal and industrial sectors of the state. The earlier provision that prohibited non-agriculturalists from buying agriculture land was not helping people in anyway and was only used by Revenue Department officials to harass people. In the last 45 years, many cases were registered for violation, but no action was taken. It had become irrelevant.
Agriculture and employment generation are among the government’s top priorities. How will the proposed changes help?
Once the Act is changed, agro-processing industries, warehouses and cold storage facilities in rural areas can come up. We need to have mango juice factories, tomato processing plants, sugar factories, coconut processing units and many other agro-processing units in rural areas. That will help reduce transportation cost, which is a big burden on farmers. That is the model followed in many countries, including Taiwan. The changes will also help reduce wastage of agriculture produce.
In many developed countries, the wastage is around 3-4 percent, but here it is around 30 percent as we do not have cold storage facilities and warehouses in rural areas. Once we have these facilities, our farmers will get a good price for their produce and their incomes will increase. It will also help generate employment opportunities in rural areas and those graduating from agriculture universities too can take up farming.
What mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that the proposed changes are not misused?
We have put an upper ceiling of 108 acres per family. Let me assure people that we will have enough mechanisms in place to ensure that it will not be misused.
Why is government contemplating an ordinance route instead of getting it passed in the Assembly?
We may not have an Assembly session soon due to the Covid pandemic and even if we implement it through an ordinance, we will discuss it in the assembly when the session is convened. We are still discussing all these aspects.
Opposition parties accuse the government of amending the Act to help corporates and are planning a statewide agitation. Will you reach out to them?
The Congress is opposing only because the Act was implemented when the party was in power. However, we have to make changes depending on the current requirements. What was relevant at that time is irrelevant now. With the changes, we can put an end to people’s harassment. We will reach out to the opposition and try to explain the advantages of these amendments. But we cannot help if they are opposing only for political reasons.
The Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act too was amended recently and a well-established system has been opened up for the private sector. How will it impact farmers?
It will help farmers as they can now sell their produce either at APMC yards or outside. It will also create competition and protect farmers from middlemen. Our focus is to help farmers and overall development of the state.