Explained: Who are the farmers in Punjab and Haryana who are fighting the legal battle for land in Kutch?

Written by Gopal B Kateshiya, edited by Explained Desk | Ahmedabad |

Updated: December 15, 2020 8:45:25 PM





On Tuesday, Prime Minister Modi interacted with farmers in Kutch, including those in Punjab, during his visit to the border district to lay the groundwork for several projects. (Source: Twitter / @ANI)

A group of farmers in Kutch, who are originally from Punjab and Haryana and have settled here, are involved in a legal battle with the Gujarat government over their agricultural land. The dispute dates back to 2010, when many farmers were informed that their land records were frozen because they were not from Gujarat. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was then head of state.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Modi interacted with farmers in Kutch, including those in Punjab, during his visit to the border district to lay the groundwork for several projects.

Who are the farmers fighting a legal battle for land in Kutch?

A group of about 60 farmers in Kutch have been fighting a legal struggle over the past decade to preserve their farmland. These farmers are mostly natives of Punjab and Haryana, who either bought land or received it through government allocation. However, noting that since they were not native Gujaratis, the state government froze registrations of land belonging to 700 other farmers in Kutch. Of the total of 784 farmers whose land records have been frozen, 245 come from Punjab and Haryana. The rest come from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Most of them are Sikhs.

How did they come to Kutch?

During the India-Pakistan war of 1965, the Pakistani army had managed to enter Kutch. After the war, however, then-Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri proposed populating the district’s border areas to make the border safer. The government stimulated settlements in Kutch, allocating land to people and distributing cash to help them buy oxen, etc. In response, a considerable number of families from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra came to Kutch. The state government allocated land to a total of 550 individuals between 1965 and 1984. Of these, 390 were Sikhs, some of them coming to the Punjab after partition. They began to exploit groundwater to irrigate their crops in Kutch and brought a revolution in agriculture to this semi-arid district. Relatives and friends of these early migrants watched because the land in Kutch is plentiful (Kutch covers 45,000 square kilometers and thus accounts for 23% of Gujarat’s total geographical area) and relatively cheap. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

What did the Gujarat government do in 2010?

On 22 October 2010, the Kutch collector sent notifications to 784 farmers informing them that their land records were frozen because they were not eligible to own land in Gujarat because they were not from Gujarat. The government cited a 1973 circular stating that only native Gujaratis could buy agricultural land in the state. The freezing of their land registrations meant that the owners of such land could not sell it or transfer it on behalf of their heirs through mutation entries. Also, Forms 7-12 and 8-A of the records of such land came with the riders, making their owners ineligible to benefit from a bank loan, etc. The 784 land accounts included those to whom government land had been allocated. Land records of 52 farmers who could prove this through documents that they legally owned government-allocated land were subsequently thawed.

Where is the legal battle now?

After the courts of the tax authorities, the issue reached the Gujarat High Court (HC). In July 2011, a single SC bench of judges ruled in favor of the state government, but farmers challenged the verdict in front of a larger court bench. In June 2012, HC’s larger bank ruled in favor of the farmer. Therefore, the state government approached the Supreme Court in 2012 with a special petition for leave, asking not to create a third interest in the country in question. SC granted that prayer. However, the government’s petition challenging the Gujarat HC ruling is still pending.

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