Karnataka relaxes laws that prevented non-farmers from owning farmland

Bengaluru: The Karnataka government said on Thursday it had approved the change in laws governing the purchase of farmland by non-farmers.

Existing laws that went into effect in the early 1970s make it difficult for non-farmers to own farmland, leading to misuse, endless litigation and forcing people to invest in neighboring states, the state government.

“There has been no use of this act for the past 45 years but to harass people,” R.Ashoka, the state revenue minister in Bangalore, said on Thursday.

Previous regulations also did not allow people from farming backgrounds to buy farmland if their off-farm income exceeded 25,000,000.

The government said these obstacles have also prevented farmers from getting good prices for their land.

The government has said it will amend some sections of the Land Reform Act regarding who can buy this land as well as the ownership cap and that an amendment bill will be introduced in the next session of the legislature.

The government is also trying to capitalize on urban dwellers who want to own farmland as well as those who want to take up farming in large numbers.

The change in land laws comes at a time when the state government led by BSYediyurappa is trying to revive economic activity after nearly three months of covid-19-induced lockdown.

Ashoka said these regulations have only led to endless litigation with more than 83,000 cases filed and several thousand still pending.

Karnataka is trying to usher in land reforms as part of plans to ease regulations in a state that has lost several large and small projects due to long pending delays, painfully slow approvals and other hurdles that have deterred investors in the past.

The state government led by BSYediyurappa had previously proposed amendments to Section 109 of the Karnataka Land Reform Act, which allows developers of approved projects to deal directly with landowners to acquire land. The government has also tried to speed up the approval process to prevent investors from withdrawing from the state.

Karnataka has lost at least more than 140 projects valued at almost 50,000 crore (between 2013 and 2019) under Section 109, the Mint reported in November last year.

The government has also relaxed laws that a family of five can own up to 108 acres of unirrigated land.

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