In a marathon session that stretched into the early hours of Sunday, the BJP government in Karnataka managed to pass Bills to modify key land and labour laws through the Assembly amid Opposition walk-outs, but was stymied by the Legislative Council where it does not have a majority.
The amendment to the land law seeks to repeal sections that restrict rights over farmland to only agriculturists and those earning below Rs 2 lakh per annum. The labour Act amendment, meanwhile, looks to allow industries with up to 300 employees to shut down without government approval—the existing upper limit is 100 workers.
The Opposition Congress called the land reforms amendment a “death warrant” for farmers. The JD(S), however, supported it.
An ordinance promulgated on July 13 to repeal four key sections of the land reforms law which restricted the sale of farmland is still in force in the state.
The Karnataka Land Reforms (Amendment) Bill, 2020 cleared in the Assembly on Saturday contained a modification of the July 13 ordinance and the original Bill tabled in the house, with the government deciding against repealing a section of the Act to increase land-holding by a family of five from 10 units (54 acres) to 20 units (108 acres) and for a family of 10 from 20 units (108 acres) to 40 units (216 acres).
The Bill’s pilot, state Revenue Minister R Ashok, told the House that the sections sought to be repealed from the land legislation only facilitated corruption in the offices of land registrars and tehsildars while not benefiting farmers wanting to sell their land.
Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah argued that the Bill was in the interest of the “real estate mafia” in Bengaluru. “The retrospective nature of the bill shows that the government is hand-in-glove with corporate bodies and housing societies,” he said. “The law will be a death warrant for farmers, farmworkers and Dalits.”
JD(S) leader and former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy supported the Bill saying he himself had to face allegations of violation of the Act in connection with agricultural property.
The Bill was passed in the Assembly via voice vote as Congress members tore up the legislation and walked out.
While the land reforms legislation was stalled in the Council amid lengthy discussions, the labour law amendment—The Industrial Disputes and Certain Other Laws (Karnataka Amendment) Act, 2020—was defeated 28:14 in the 75-member Upper House where the Opposition has a majority. Some BJP members, too, opposed the bill when it was taken up for discussion. A labour ordinance promulgated by the BJP government on July 31 to facilitate ease of doing business is in place in Karnataka and is valid for six months.
The Karnataka legislature also passed the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Bill 2020 which allows farmers to sell their produce outside APMC markets—mirroring the Centre’s legislation. The bill was passed amid a walk-out by the Congress and JDS in the Assembly.
In the APMC Act’s case, too, an ordinance amending it was promulgated on May 15 by the Karnataka government.
A state-wide bandh has been called by farmer groups on September 28 over the amendments to the APMC Act at the Centre and the state.
A total of 37 bills were tabled for passage in the six-day legislature session.
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