Many regions of the country have a long history of urban residents with ownership rights of agricultural land, identifying themselves as landlords, enjoying the plentiful produce of food-grains promptly delivered by the farmers at the lord’s doorstep, marking the harvest season. The reign of landlords ended some decades ago in Karnataka following the policy of land for the tillers in addition to ushering Panchayat Raj in the country by the 73rd Amendment to the Nation’s Constitution in 1992. Former Chief Minister of Karnataka D. Devaraja Urs introduced the historic law “Tiller is the owner of the land” taking note of the exploitation that labourers and land tillers were subjected to until early 1970s and 80s, bringing revolutionary changes in land ownership in Karnataka, giving peasants legal ownership of the lands that they laboured on, benefiting nearly five lakh landless labourers at that time. More than three decades later, the incumbent Chief Minister of the State is set to implement another historic Act bestowing land ownership rights on landless farm labourers outside the purview of revenue land.
Profile of India’s peasants over centuries portrays them as virtual bonded labourers, a feature witnessed not only in India but also in many countries of the Western world colonised by Europeans. Although the landlords were perceived as ungrateful beneficiaries of the labour of the farmers, instances of harmonious relationship between the two parties cannot be denied. But, that amounted to be the case of exception to the rule as it were.
The top brass in the administration seems to have recognised the urgency of introducing welfare measures to alleviate the life’s hardship bugging the farmers and their families after the ongoing exodus of rustics to urban spaces in search of livelihood. The government’s move has the added feature of making the farmers realise that they are not only an integral part of the State but also respected citizens. The hope of development activities in their areas in the nature of comfortable dwellings, drainage system, toilets, drinking water, electricity, quality roads, healthcare facilities, schools, entertainment and so on is bound to be a reality in the coming days.
Crop loan, waivers, direct fund transfers for dry land agriculture, proper price for produce, avenues for livelihood in village environs and so on are being sounded from various platforms by people who count in the country’s politics on election eve. The farming fraternity needs timely leadership to ensure that they are not let down by whichever party gets into the saddle.