Protesting Punjab farmers on the road again; want AAP govt to meet their demands

Their demands include a Rs 500 bonus on each quintal of wheat as its yield has dropped due to heatwave conditions and that the government should allow them to sow paddy from June 10

Farmers said if chief minister Bhagwant Mann did not meet with them by Wednesday, they will move towards Chandigarh for holding an indefinite protest. | Photo for Representational Purposes Only

Scenes from farmers’ agitation last year against central farm laws on Delhi border were replayed at the Chandigarh-Mohali border on Tuesday. Farmers owing allegiance to various farm organisations of Punjab were stopped from heading to Chandigarh to press the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government to meet their various demands, including a bonus on wheat and beginning paddy sowing from June 10.

Also read: BJP targets AAP govt in Punjab over farmers suicide, power cuts

After being stopped by the Mohali Police, the farmers squatted and parked their vehicles in the middle of the road. They spent the night on the road on the Chandigarh-Mohali road. The protesting farmers are carrying ration, beds, fans, coolers, utensils, cooking gas cylinders and other items with them.

Farmers had given an ultimatum to the government and said if the chief minister did not hold a meeting with them by Wednesday, they will move towards Chandigarh breaking barricades for holding an indefinite protest.

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Farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal said the protesters were not hopeful of getting their issues redressed by meeting a government official. “It is our warning that if Chief Minister Mann does not hold a meeting with us and resolve our issues by tomorrow, we will be compelled to move ahead further (break barricades to enter Chandigarh),” Dallewal said.

Bharti Kisan Union (Lakhowal) general secretary Harinder Singh Lakhowal on Wednesday said the state government should address the issues of the farmers.

Indefinite protest till demands met

Several farmer unions, affiliated to the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), had given a call for an indefinite protest in Chandigarh. Among their various demands, farmers want a Rs 500 bonus on each quintal of wheat as its yield has dropped and shrivelled because of unprecedented heatwave conditions.

They are also against the Punjab government’s decision to allow paddy sowing in a staggered manner from June 18 to lessen the electricity burden and conserve underground water. The protesters want the government to allow them to sow paddy from June 10. They also want a notification issued for the minimum support price for maize and moong and fixing Rs 4,500 per quintal MSP for Basmati.

The farmers are also demanding the government to lower the charges on the extension of electricity load from Rs 4,800 to Rs 1,200, 10-12 hours of power supply and release of outstanding sugarcane payments. They are also against the installation of smart electricity meters

The protesters have also demanded that the arrest warrants issued against farmers who have taken loans from co-operative societies should be cancelled and the loans up to Rs 2 lakh be waived off.

Do or die battle, say farmers

“It is the start of our struggle in Punjab and it will continue till our demands are met. Only 25 per cent of farmers have come here so far. More will come on Wednesday. It is a do or die battle,” said a farmer leader.

When asked Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann had said his government was open for talks, Lakhowal said farmers do not run away from a meeting. “We are here. He (CM) has to give time for the meeting. Where are the doors open? They have shut their doors,” he said.

He said that during their last meeting with the CM on April 17, they had submitted a charter of 11 demands and Mann had assured them of resolving their issues. But not a single demand has been accepted yet, Lakhowal claimed.

Farmers are demanding a meeting with Mann for redressal of their issues. On Wednesday morning, several farmer leaders held a meeting at Gurdwara Amb Sahib in Mohali.

Unwarranted protest, says Mann

Mann on Tuesday had termed the farmers’ protest “unwarranted and undesirable” and had asked the farmer unions to stop sloganeering and join hands with the state government to stop Punjab’s depleting water table.

He had also said his doors were open for the farmers to hold talks but “hollow slogans” cannot break his resolve to check further depletion of the water table.

Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu said farmers’ demand for bonus on wheat was genuine. “Farmers demand for bonus on wheat is genuine. Have been raising this issue since beginning of procurement season,” he tweeted.

A heavy contingent of the police has been deployed at the Chandigarh-Mohali border.

Also read: Three reasons behind India’s wheat shortage, and ways to avert future crises

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