The Congress has threatened to gherao the Punjab chief minister's residence here in another week if the state government continues to hold back the money that the Centre's has sent to recompense farmers for last year's damage to the paddy crop.
Addressing a press conference here on Saturday, state Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Sunil Jakhar said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre had sent `270.94 crore to Punjab State Response Fund to be distributed among the state's farmers to help them tide over the loss. "The first install was sent on July 25 last year and the second on this February 10. The Akali government has distributed neither, so far. It also hasn't contributed its share of `67 crore to the disaster response fund," he claimed.
Jakhar accused CM Parkash Singh Badal and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal of misleading people. "It appears that the Akali government has already squandered the money meant for the farmers and now it is expressing false sympathy to them," he added. The disaster response fund included `51 crore for Muktsar and `32 crore for Fazilka, districts that include the assembly constituencies of Badal and Sukhbir, respectively, he said.
He accused the Badal government of being timid in seeking compensation for Punjab's farmers for their recent damage to the wheat crop because of untimely rain and hailstorm. "Why is Badal seeking only `10,000 per acre as relief from the Centre, when he demanded `25,000 to 30,000 per acre from the previous Manmohan Singh government? I think both Badal and Sukhbir don't want to antagonise Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and that's why they are compromising the interests of the Punjab farmers," said the Congress leader.
The Badal government, he said, had also failed to confront Union minister for consumer affairs Ram Bilas Paswan, who had advised the state governments not to pay bonus on MSP (minimum support price) to the farmers. "The Haryana government has already announced `10,000 per acre as relief to the farmers for the recent damage to the wheat crop. Why can't the Badal government make similar announcement for the Punjab farmers, instead of waiting for the Union government to send some relief?" said Jakhar.