GANDHINAGAR: In a bid to make life easy for a key NDA ally, Shiromani Akali Dal, the Modi government has decided to defreeze the land of 52 Sikh farmers in Kutch.
The fate of close to 800 farmers from Punjab and Haryana, who had settled in Kutch since 1965, was in the balance after the Gujarat government froze their land ownership in 2010 on technical grounds. The matter is sub judice in the Supreme Court after the state government challenged the Gujarat high court order favouring the farmers in 2012.
"We have defrozen the land of 52 farmers after it was found that the state government had given them santhani (given to landless labourers for farming) land. However, we cannot defreeze land of other claimant farmers as they are not farmers or Santhani land holders as per the government records," said Harshad Patel, collector, Kutch. "We will take a final decision after the Supreme Court decides on the matter," he said.
KN Bhatt, secretary, state revenue department said the land was seized from people who did not have proper records of being farmers. Those who produced records have already got their land back, he said.
Farmers of Punjab, Haryana and other states were invited to settle down in Kutch after the 1965 war to prevent infiltration by Pakistan. In 2010, the state government froze the land holdings of nearly 1,000 farmers under the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948, which bans sale of agriculture land in Gujarat to people who are not traditional agriculturists. There are around 5,000 Sikh farmers in the region.
SAD was under attack back home owing to the "injustice" meted out to the farmers. Interestingly, Punjab's deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal is may visit the Rannotsav.