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Overdue land reform

EducationWorld August 2020 | Postscript

Although BJP governments at the Centre and in the states have not particularly distinguished themselves for policy and project implementation, the party’s leadership deserves some credit for its commitment to big ticket structural reforms which offer a modicum of hope of extrication of the suffering citizenry from the wilderness of neta-babu socialism. Some initiatives of the BJP indicate that the party is ready to make a break with control-and-command socialism which has bankrupted post-independence India.

Recently, the BJP state government introduced the Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 to repeal several provisions of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1974 which cleverly suppressed the price of agriculture land to the advantage of the rural landed gentry. Under s.79 of the Act, agricultural land could be purchased only by agriculturists. With high net worth urban citizens prohibited from owning agricultural land, gates were opened for the rural gentry who dominated the state’s Congress party, to accumulate vast benami landholdings. Also barred from leasing or mortgaging farm land or signing contract farming agreements, distressed farmers had no option but to sell out. In effect, agriculture land became a substantially devalued, if not dead asset.

The iniquitous impact of this regressive legislation was experienced first-hand by your publisher who was obliged to sell inherited farmland to an agriculturist at a throwaway price. Now following belated amendment of the KLR Act, with corporates and urban high net worth individuals free to purchase the very same property, its price has risen manifold. Fortunately, even if belatedly, the state government has seen the light.

But the Amendment Bill has to be enacted by the state’s legislative assembly, and predictably the opposition Congress party which has legislated the Act, is opposing the amendment as anti-farmer. Incorrigible.

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