With the Assembly elections around the corner, farmers in Karnataka are hoping to compel the BJP government to walk the path of its Central counterpart in withdrawing amendments to farm-related acts.
Karnataka State Farmers’ Association and Green Brigade, in a convention of farmers from across the state in Bengaluru on Tuesday, 31 January, appealed to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to repeal the amendments made to the APMC Act and the Land Reforms Act.
It also sought an assurance that there would be no attempts to disrupt the state’s dairy sector.
“Owing to farmers’ protest on the borders of New Delhi, the Union government repealed farm laws more than a year ago, but the BJP government in Karnataka has refused to withdraw similar amendments made to the APMC Act for reasons best known to them,” Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, president of the Karnataka State Farmers’ Association, told South First.
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The farmers’ leader saw a “hidden agenda” in Karnataka’s refusal to withdraw the amendments.
“It looks like Basavaraj Bommai wants to make Karnataka a ‘sample state’ in the country where farmers and their livelihood will be destroyed and taken over by realtors, corporates, and MNCs,” Chandrashekar alleged.
With the Karnataka Assembly session set to begin shortly, farmers’ unions want the government to withdraw Karnataka Land Reforms Second Amendment Bill, 2020, and the Karnataka Agriculture Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) Amendment Bill, 2020.
The bills were passed in both Houses of the Karnataka State Legislature amid protests by farmers’ organisations across the state and the Opposition Congress.
The farmers alleged that the Land Reforms Act amendment is putting undue pressure on them to sell agricultural land to realtors, corporates, or MNCs, eventually giving up on farming completely.
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“In 10 years from now, 75 percent of farmers will have quit farming if these laws continue to exist. Earlier, there were laws protecting agricultural land but that has been nullified with these amendments,” Chandrashekar said, adding that thousands of farmers were facing hardships due to amendments to the APMC Act.
Karnataka was among the first states in India to make changes to APMC Act allowing open market trade.
“The amendment has led to almost 90 percent collapse of the APMC system. The arrival of produce at APMC yards has reduced greatly, affecting revenues too,” Chandrasekhar said.
“APMCs are no longer profitable and it is reason enough for the government to shut them down and give corporates exclusive access to farm produce and create their markets bypassing the APMC,” he alleged.
Such a move will lead to corporates deciding the prices of farm produce instead of markets run by farmers themselves, he added.
“Corporates will decide the price, quantity, quality of the agriculture produce, and the farmers’ legal rights will be snatched away,” he contended.
The concerns raised were similar to those raised by farmers who opposed the Union government’s farm laws.
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Concerns in the dairy sector
Union Home and Cooperation Minister Amit Shah’s proposal for Gujarat’s milk cooperative AMUL to work in tandem with Karnataka’s Nandhini, too, has raised concerns among farmers.
“Does the government plan to hand over dairies to corporates like Adani with the merger of Amul and Nandhini,” farmers’ leaders asked at the convention.
Ministers as well as the chief minister have insisted that no such plans are on the table.
“There is only a marginal two percent to three percent difference between political party candidates when it comes to winning elections or losing, and we farmers can make a difference,” vice-president of Farmers’ Association Manjunath Gowda said, warning that farmers, as a group, will work towards influencing electoral outcome if amendments to the two Acts are not repealed.
Outsourced workers’ indefinite strike
Meanwhile, all outsourced workers of local administrative bodies in Karnataka will go on an indefinite strike from Wednesday, 1 February, demanding regularisation of their services in a phased manner on the lines of municipal workers.
Outsourced workers of all 330 local bodies in the state, including drivers of garbage transporting vehicles, water supply helpers, loaders, cleaners, and drainage workers, will take part in the protest, BK Annappa, convener of the coastal division of Karnataka State Association of Outsourced Workers of Local Administrative Bodies, said in a statement.
The government has meted out injustice to over 15,000 people who are working as outsourced workers in various local administrative bodies by depriving them of various facilities, he alleged.
As part of the protest, the workers will stop the water supply and suspend cleanliness works. More than 900 workers will take part in the protest in Dakshina Kannada district, he said.
While welcoming the direct recruitment of civic workers, he said the rights of outsourced workers should be protected.
(With PTI inputs)