The poultry sector in Karnataka has raised objections to the draft Karnataka Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Raj Rules, 2021 stating that if it comes into effect, it would cripple the sector in the state.

Representatives of the Karnataka Poultry Farmer’s and Breeder’s Association (KPFBA) and the National Egg Co-ordination Committee (NECC) submitted a list of objections to the proposed rules, seeking amendment to the same. The objections were submitted to the state Minister for Animal Husbandry, Prabhu B.Chauhan and senior officials in various departments.

B Sushant Rai, President, KPFBA, said poultry farms cannot be included in ‘Agricultural Based Manufacturing Units’. “From perusal of the definition clause at Rule 2(3) it is seen that, Poultry Farm, has been included under the definition of Buildings used for Agricultural Based Manufacturing Units. Upon defining the Poultry Farm as Agricultural Based Manufacturing Unit, it has been made assessable to Taxes under Chapter III, Rule 15(4),” he said.

Rai pointed out that “first of all, poultry farming has not been defined under the Karnataka Grama Swaraj and Panchayath Raj Act 1993. Poultry farming is defined under the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, under Section 2(1)(d) of the said Act.”

As per the Land Reforms Act, agriculture includes aquaculture; horticulture; dairy farming; poultry farming; breeding of livestock; and grazing. Including poultry farms under the definition of agricultural based manufacturing unit in the proposed Rules would be contrary to established law, Rai said.

Agricultural activity

The Karnataka Land Revenue Act does not mandate for conversion of the lands where poultry farms are constructed as poultry farming itself is agriculture and poultry farms are mostly on agricultural lands. Unless the lands are converted under Section 95 of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, poultry farms cannot be assessed to taxes by the local bodies, much less the gram panchayats, the KPFBA President said. He further said that that including poultry farms under the definition of agricultural based manufacturing unit is ‘not only illegal, the same is untenable’.

Substantiating their case, KPFBA mentioned that poultry farming is not a commercial activity, but an agricultural activity, much like other periodical agricultural activities. “Poultry farming is not a manufacturing process where some agricultural raw materials are used, processed and a new product is manufactured. It is an agricultural activity much like sericulture where silk worms are cultivated to produce silk.”

The KPFBA said that to raise a batch of chicks in to consumable chickens, it takes about 35 to 40 days. Thereafter to rear the next batch of chicks there must be a gap of about one and a half months. In a year, a farmer can rear chicks in five batches, maximum.

Discriminatory: NECC

The NECC representatives said that the draft rules were highly discriminatory to the poultry farming community and would render many to stop operating in Karnataka. NECC said it may be justifiable to bring poultry feed manufacturing under the draft rules but not poultry farming, per se.

NECC said that “as per the provisions of Section 199 of the Karnataka Gram Swaraj and Panchayat Act, 1993, the concerned gram panchayat can levy tax upon buildings and lands which are not subject to agricultural assessment. Any Rules thereof cannot override the Act itself by mandating something contrary.”

NECC also pointed out that no other State had come out with such legislation and in fact, States such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have promulgated beneficial legislations while providing subsidies to poultry farms. “There is no tax on lands and buildings used for poultry farms in Gujarat, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, etc.”

NECC mentioned that Karnataka is already receiving about 50 lakh eggs per day from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and if these draft rules come into effect, then Karnataka will have to depend upon other states for its poultry requirements.