On troubled grounds

An open invitation to avaricious plantation companies, the proposed Karnataka Land Reform Act amendments will Hurt poor farmers

Published: Wednesday 15 November 1995

Fallow efforts: farmers will<s THE Karastaka government has been Facing pressure from the industry since Long to open up land ceiling limits for agricultural lands. Principal add the deal are Sterling Tree Magnum(STM) and Anubhav Plantation in raising commercial timber like teak wood plantations.

These concerns have been buying all over India but in Karnataka due to a gs act which deems such plantation growing as illegal.

STM, claims that they would acquire only cultivable fallow and which is of no use to the farmer and this activity should be beneficial for rural development.

The H D Deve Gowda ministry, posed ceilings amendment bill on September 21 - when the oppositioo presence was sparse in the House - has in effect, opened doors for individuals and corporate bodies for virtual land grabbing. The amendment is awaiting Presidential approval.

Sociologists see this as a beginning of a dangerous trend. "Big landlords, dispossessed of their lands in the '70s, had started re-acquiring their lands in the '80s, often by encroachment. This was, of course illegal. By passing the bill,the state government is providing legitimacy to an illegal act," states Walter Fernandes, Indian Social Institute, Delhi.

M D Nanjundaswamy, president, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, stated, "We are starting a stir at Mandya district immediately," while speaking to Down To Earth from Bangalore. "This bill allows a single party to acquire 43.74 ha of land, and lease an additional 87.48 ha, that is, a total of 131.22 ha," he said.

The Vecrendra Patil regime had, in 1992, enabled the usage of agricultural lands of upto 4.374 ha for industrial purposes and building educational institutions, and 2.187 ha for other nonagricultural purposes.

Now land allotments would increase by 10 times: the first category to 43.74 ha and the second to 21.87 ha. Francis Guntipilly, head, legal aid department, Indian Social Institute, Bangalore, forsees tenants - particularly the poor - being affected by these changes. To tackle this pro-big farmer policy, his department recently invited local NGOS to Bangalore for a meeting to discuss the plan of action.

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