Land Reforms Bill: K'taka govt not to hike land ceiling

Karnataka Land Reforms Bill: Govt drops move to up land ceiling

Karnataka Revenue Minister R Ashoka

The controversial Bill that frees up agricultural landholdings was passed by the Karnataka Assembly on Saturday, with the BJP government deciding to drop a clause that doubled how much land a family can own.

The Karnataka Land Reforms Act (Amendment) Bill 2020 was passed amidst protest by the Opposition Congress, which staged a walkout.

Piloting the Bill, Revenue Minister R Ashoka said the government would withdraw the proposed amendment to Section 63 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, to double the landholding ceiling.

The government had proposed to increase the ceiling from 10 units to 20 units for an individual without family or a family up to four people, and from 20 units to 40 units for large families above five people. Each unit of land is 5.4 acres.

"We will retain this provision as it was in the original Act, without any amendment," Ashoka said.

Farmers associations and opposition parties had expressed concerns that any increase in the ceiling would enable large corporates to buy land in bulk, leaving small and marginal farmers vulnerable.

The government's decision is only a partial victory to farmers' organisations that have called for a statewide bandh on September 28 demanding that the Bill be dropped entirely.
In a Cabinet decision in June this year, the government had proposed to amend the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, on three aspects: Allowing non-agriculturists to buy agricultural land, removing the income limit for the purchase of land and doubling the ceiling on landholding.

While farmer representatives want the entire amendment to be withdrawn, the government has not budged from its stand on liberalising land ownership.

Even as Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa reiterated that the government would ensure that no small and marginal farmers will be affected and that the SC/ST lands will remain untouched by this amendment, a ruckus ensued in the Assembly, with opposition leaders demanding the amendment Bill be withdrawn altogether.

Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah claimed that the government's move stemmed from an ulterior motive to help housing societies and corporate bodies. "The government is acting under pressure from corporate lobbyists," he said.

JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy said the government's move had caused anxiety among the farming community.