Former Prime Minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda on Tuesday threatened to launch a statewide agitation if the BJP government did not withdraw the amendments to the Karnataka Land Reforms Act forthwith.
"As the amendments are anti-farmer and in favour of the real estate, we will launch an agitation across the state along with farmer and the rural people if they are not withdrawn," Deve Gowda told reporters.
The amendments to the 1961 Act, made through an ordinance earlier this month, enable even non-farmers to purchase and own farmlands across the state for farming and agri-related activity.
"The BJP government has also amended the APMC Act, allowing private players to buy foodgrains, vegetables and fruits from farmers to their cost advantage," said Deve Gowda, a newly-elected Rajya Sabha member from the state.
As a farmer and son of the soil, he said the recent changes in the labour laws were also against workers and serve the interests of industrialists and factory owners.
"I have already written three letters to Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa urging him to withdraw the amendments to the Land Reforms Act and the APMC Act, failing which I will take to streets along with hundreds of farmers and rural people," he warned.
The May 14 amendment to the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act, through an ordinance, is to lift restrictions on sale of farm produce and allow farmers to directly sell their crop in APMC yards or in private markets where they get the best price.
"By allowing anyone to buy and own farmlands, the pro-capitalist and pro-industry BJP government is helping land sharks to rob the livelihood of thousands of farmers and hit foodgrain production in the state," Deve Gowda claimed.
Defending the amendments, Yediyurappa said the amended Land Reforms Act permitted citizens who are not farmers to buy farmlands in the state to grow food crops but not use the land for other activities.
An official said that the amendments repealed sections 79 A, B and C from the 1961 Act, paving way for bonafide citizens to invest in agriculture lands and take to farming as a hobby, passion or additional occupation, which is rewarding.
The amended Act will also enable the state to attract investments in the farm sector and boost food production, as the sector's contribution to the gross domestic state product (GDSP) has been less than by the manufacturing and services sectors over the last 2 decades, the official said.
On the new APMC Act, the Chief Minister said the amendments would double the farmers' income as envisaged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The amendment will not dilute powers or work of APMCs, as all marketing activities will be monitored by the state APMC director, he clarified.
"The new law will stop exploitation of farmers by market forces, middlemen and commission agents and prevent them from selling their produce in distress when prices fall. They can sell their produce to those who pay them the highest price," Yediyurappa contended.