The Opposition in Karnataka has warned the BJP-led state government of agitations and legal action against the amendments it has made to laws governing land holdings and labour in a bid to attract investments and facilitate ease of doing business amid the pandemic.
Congress leader Siddaramaiah said his party is considering going to court over amendments to the land reforms Act. “The BJP government has made amendments to land reforms Act and has brought an ordinance. I thought the government won’t come out with the ordinance when there is a Covid-19 crisis in the state,” he said.
Former Prime Minister and JD(S) president H D Deve Gowda too has opposed the amendments to the land reforms Act and labour laws and written to Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, seeking their withdrawal.
“These amendments are retrograde and anti-farmer and anti-labour. In the best interest of farmers and the labour force, they should be withdrawn immediately,” Deve Gowda said. He has called a meeting of pro-farmer and labour groups on August 4 to chalk out a plan to oppose the amended laws.
Major amendments have been made to the Karnataka Land Reforms Act 1961 through a Bill passed in March and an ordinance in July. The state cabinet has now cleared the path for changes to laws governing factories, industrial disputes and contract labour through the ordinance route.
An ordinance promulgated on July 13 with the assent of the Governor has repealed four key sections of the landholding law, which restricted sale of agricultural land.
Section 63 A of the land reforms Act, which imposed a ceiling of ownership of 10 units for a five-member family, and sections 79 A, B and C, which limited farm land rights to agriculturists and to those earning below Rs 2 lakh per annum, were repealed through the ordinance.
On July 23, the cabinet cleared proposals for reforms to three labour laws through the ordinance route. The government has proposed to promulgate the Industrial Disputes and Certain Other Laws (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance 2020 to allow industries with up to 300 employees to shut without government approval, raising the cap from 100 workers.
Another proposed change is a modification of clauses in the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, as per which factories employing more than 20 contract workers have to be inspected and cleared by the state for carrying out operations. This cap is proposed to be raised to 50 workers, state Law Minister J C Madhuswamy said.
The third proposed change is to the Factories Act 1948 to increase the overtime limit for workers from 75 hours per quarter to 125 hours per quarter.
“Many small and medium industries are on the brink of closure and big industries are in trouble. Industry groups have been talking to us and several laws have to be amended for ease of doing business. We have taken steps in this direction,” Industries Minister Jagadish Shettar said.
“Land cost is high in Karnataka. Investors were going to Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu as a consequence. The land reforms will change this,” said president, Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry, C R Janardhana.
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