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Agriculture courses may be privatized in Karnataka

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The land reforms Act allowing anyone to purchase land and people going back to villages amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a further increase in demand for agri-related courses is expected, say experts.

BENGALURU : Even as the country is wracked by farmers’ protests over controversial farm laws, the Karnataka Government plans to allow private colleges to start agriculture courses in order to meet the increasing demand.

With the land reforms Act allowing anyone to purchase land and people going back to villages amid the pandemic, a further increase in demand for agri-related courses is expected, say experts.

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In Karnataka, there are six universities related to farming — University of Agricultural Sciences in Bengaluru, Dharwad, Shivamogga and Raichur, University of Veterinary Sciences in Bidar and Horticulture university in Bagalkot under which 26 government colleges are offering graduation and post-graduation courses.

One lakh Applicants for 4,000 seats

About 4,000 seats are allowed every year during admission. In 2013, when all these six universities were included under the Karnataka Examinations Authority, the number of applicants increased from an average 25,000 to 35,000. The number has been increasing every year and this year, close to one lakh students applied for the 4,000 seats available. “To meet this demand, either the government has to increase seat intake in its colleges, start new colleges or allow private players.

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Since the government does not have sufficient funds to provide infrastructure and human resources, private players can help,’’ said a senior official from the Department of Agriculture who didn’t wish to be named. Agriculture Minister B C Patil told that there had always been demand for agriculture courses in Karnataka. “In Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states, governments are allowing private players to run colleges with agriculture courses.

They have one university and all these private colleges are affiliated to them. We also have similar plans,’’ he said, adding that even in urban areas, youngsters are showing interest in agriculture. In 2009, the State government had passed the Universities of Agricultural Sciences Bill that allowed private affiliated colleges. But nothing much was done till 2017.

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In 2017, the government called private colleges to apply for affiliation and six institutes applied, of which three were eligible. One of the criteria was to have 75 acres of farm land as per the Technical Committee recommendations. But for various reasons it did not take off.  A B Patil, former Registrar, UAS (Bengaluru), said, “Now that the land reforms will also help people to buy land and with many youngsters interested in agriculture and moving back to villages, there will be many agripreneurs and agriculture may become an industry.’’