Karnataka: KRRS members stage statewide protest opposing amendments to Land Reforms Act

KRRS activists blocking the Nanjanagudu-Mysuru highway on Saturday demanding withdrawal of amendments to the Karnataka Land Reforms Act

KRRS Farmers carry out coordinated demonstrations in different districts across Karnataka to protest against amendments to Land Reforms Act

Since the time Karnataka government announced that it would bring amendments to the Karnataka Land Reforms Act-1961, thousands of farmers organized under the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, and Hasiru Sene (KRRS) are protesting against the government’s move throughout the state. On 20th June, Saturday, KRRS members carried out coordinated actions and demonstrations in many district and taluk administrative headquarters in Karnataka, calling upon the state government to withdraw the amendment.

KRRS members termed these amendments as an anti-farmer and pro-corporate move by the government. They are worried that the law will facilitate realtors to grab more agricultural lands and will push them out of their lands by leaving them landless. Farmers also alleged that amendment favored the rich and the real estate agents and was grossly against the very spirit of the Act and as well as against the interests of the agrarian sector. The new changes to the Act will only help the rich and the corporate to buy more land. It will have socio-economic impacts in rural areas besides its effect on food sovereignty and security, said the members.

KRRS farmers staged protests in Belagavi, Mandya, Mysuru, Hassan, Raichur, Gadag, Chikkaballapura, Madikeri, Yadagiri, Bagalakote, Shivamogga, Chamarajanagar and many other taluk headquarters. The government should immediately withdraw the amendments, or else we will intensify our protest in the coming days, warned the members.

Agriculture and allied activities are the primary sources of livelihood for the rural population; they provide not only income but also food. The proposed changes will mainly induce small and distressed farmers to sell their lands, while big farmers will make use of the higher ceiling limits and further consolidate their landholdings. It is very likely that if the proposed changes are implemented, the rural population may see a rise in the number of landless laborers and will increase distress migration, said Chukki Nanjundaswamy, the senior leader of the KRRS.

Even after the historical land reforms of 1974, that came in the wake of the brave struggles of tenant farmers and the landless. Many Dalits and Adivasis don’t have land titles, and the majority of them are still landless. Also, women farmers constitute the significant workforce of agriculture, and they also don’t enjoy access to land ownership, we want a reform that ensures land access to everyone. But the government is now trying to bring in pro-corporate reforms by betraying farmers and rural people, said Chukki.

Addressing the protestors in Shimoga, K.T. Gangadhar, working president of KRRS, said that the decision to allow non-agriculturists to purchase farmland would pose a severe threat to the food security of the country. Expressing ire that the decision was against the farmers’ interests, he said that the amendment to the law would pave the way for the purchase of large tracts of agricultural land by investors and conversion of such plots to non-agricultural purpose later. The small and marginal farmers who sell their land would then become unemployed, he said.

Our farmers are already facing the severe impacts of agrarian distress; now, this government is giving them yet another shock. This new legislation will spell doom for the middle class, small and marginal farmers. The government, which should have stood with the peasantry, conspired to exploit their ineptitude to make them permanently landless and throw them away from agriculture lands by bringing in these legislations, said Vidyasagar, the KRRS leader from Mysore.

Misusing lockdown due to the pandemic, the government is planning to bring in amendment by passing an ordinance without discussing it in the Assembly. This anti-farmer amendment does not mention what action the government will take if the land purchased by non-agriculturists and corporates is not used for farming activities, said Jayashree Gurannavar, the women leader from Belagavi.

There is also an indirect proposal to cancel all the electricity concessions that the government is giving to the people. It is also not accidental that the minimum support price (MSPs) announced by the central government for 14 crops amid Covid-19 hardship is lower than the amount announced last year. This anti peasant government uses pandemics to bring a slew of anti-peasant legislations, said Chunnappa Pujari, leader of KRRS.

The decision to bring in an amendment to the Act should be withdrawn. The government should ensure that there is no injustice to the farmers. KRRS activists also warned that there would be a statewide protest if the law is passed, we are not afraid of any threat from the government. We will build a massive movement by intensifying our protests against the government in the coming days, said KT Gangadhar.

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