The Lok Sabha election schedule for Punjab may not suit the farming community which remains busy in the month of April, harvesting the wheat crop, transporting it to mandis for sale and in other allied activities.
In the latter half of April, farmers will have little or no time to attend to political rallies or to interact with contesting candidates and their supporters as harvesting will be in full swing.
The Border Area Kisan Sangarsh Committee and the Jamuhri Kisan Sabha, backed by the Pendu Mazdoor Sabha and the Kirti Kisan Union, feel that the Election Commission should have taken the wheat harvesting period into consideration before fixing April 30 as the date of polling for the 13 parliamentary constituencies of Punjab.
On the other hand, in the neighbouring state of Haryana, where polling would be held on April 10, farmers will be having enough time for harvesting after exercising their franchise, these organizations point out.
Border Area Kisan Sangarsh Committee state general secretary, Rattan Singh Randhawa, while reacting to the poll schedule for Punjab, told HT that it is the time when the farmers remain busy harvesting their wheat and transporting it to the mandis for sale. Then there are allied activities, like taking care of the 'turi' (dry fodder).
According to officials of the local agricultural department, wheat harvesting in the state is expected to commence in mid-April and will end in the first week of May. Though it may begin at the start of April but it gathers momentum towards the last week of the month.
Randhawa said if a farmer's wheat crop may be ready for cutting in the second week of April but he may have to delay it due to non-availability of a combine harvester.
"A farmer will not leave his home and go to attend a political rally or take part in the poll campaign as the ripened crop needs to be guarded against fires and other accidents. Moreover if the combine harvester enters his fields on the day of the polling, then he may not even get the time to go to the polling booth to cast his vote", he added.
Jamuhri Kisan Sabha chairman, Dr Satnam Singh Ajnala also pointed out that farmers have to spend a day or two or even more in 'mandis' waiting for their crop to be purchased by procurement agencies or traders. In such a scenario, they may not be in a position to exercise their franchise, he added.
"Only a die-hard supporter or member of a political party will give preference to his vote over his crop", Ajnala added.
BUSY PERIOD FOR FARM LABOURERS
Speaking on behalf of the agricultural labourers, Dharmender Ajnala of the Pendu Mazdoor Sabha said that during the harvesting period, labourers remain busy as small and marginal farmers prefer to get their crop cut manually and harvested on threshers. A lot of men from poor families consider the wheat harvesting season as the time to earn some extra income by working in 'mandis'. They may not change their routine working schedule for the polling day on April 30 .
'2009 POLL SCHEDULE WAS BEST'
Randhawa fells that the ECI should have stuck to the polling schedule of the 2009 elections as it was suited to the farming community. Punjab then went to the polls in two phases--May 7 and May 13, when the harvesting season was over.
"Every eligible voter has the right to exercise his or her franchise and even to take part in rallies and listen to the views of
candidates. In 2009, the polling date suited all and poll percentage was around 68% to70 %. It will fall this time", added Randhawa.
AVAILABILITY OF COLLEGE TEACHERS
A large section of college teachers may not be available for poll duty in April. This is because they will be busy in in taking classes or performing examination duty.
" In April, there will be virtually no availability of staff from colleges as a section of the staff will be busy conducting the annual exams while another section will be busy taking classes of students who will be appearing for the semester exams in May," said Prof HS
Walia, state executive member of the Punjab and Chandigarh College Teachers Union (PCCTU).
He too felt that keeping the college staff's availability in view, the month of May would have been suitable for Punjab.