Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai-led government Wednesday introduced the Karnataka Land Grabbing Prohibition (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which seeks to avoid criminal proceedings against the farmers who have encroached upon government lands in the rural areas, in the legislative assembly.
The bill excludes all places from the purview of the Act except those which are within the municipal limits of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
Presently, the encroachments outside the BBMP attract a minimum jail sentence of one year apart from a penalty.
The government argued that it was not right to treat the farmers as land grabbers if they have encroached upon the government land during agricultural operations.
The government’s move has attracted criticism from the wildlife conservationists, who believe that diluting regulations would lead to destruction of forest areas.
“When the elected representatives should be discussing the climate crisis, food security and public health, they are debating about diluting regulations and decimating existing forest landscapes,” said Joseph Hoover, a wildlife conservationist.
“While Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to conserve and preserve biodiversity, his ministers and MLAs in Karnataka are disdainfully, gainfully destroying it,” he added.
The forest officials fear that they would find it difficult to protect the forest lands in the state.
“Over 1,77,997.58 acres of the forest land has been encroached across the state. Most of the encroachments are in the name of agriculture. We face stiff resistance when we go to evict encroachments. If this is allowed, we will keep on losing the forest lands,” a senior forest officer said.
“Early this year, the state government has denotified 6.64 lakh hectares of 9.94 lakh hectares of the deemed forest. Only God can save us at this pace,” he added.