As many as 35 farmers from Uttar Pradesh, here at the Progressive Punjab Agriculture Summit, tasted some bitter hospitality of the SAS Nagar administration after they were not provided any food or proper transport. The farmers, who belonged to kisan mandals (farmers' groups) from various districts of UP, were invited by the Punjab government for the first day of the summit that is to continue till February 19.
The farmers, who were promised free lodging, boarding and food, arrived at Zirakpur on Saturday evening and checked into the assigned hotel. Though buses dropped them at the venue of the summit in Phase 11 on Sunday morning, no breakfast or lunch was offered. And when they got free from the summit at around 3pm, no transport was provided. Some of them waited for hours, while others left on their own, but not before raising slogans against the Punjab government.
Farmer Hukam Singh of Mathura district said, "We never expected that we will be treated like this! Our calls to bus drivers are going unanswered."
Another farmer, Satnam Singh, of Basti district said, "We were invited with the assurance that everything will be provided. Neither have we got many of the promised facilities, nor has the summit helped us in any way. The coordinator never met us."
Waiting at the venue site, Jagdish Singh of Kanpur said, "We do not know how to get to Zirkapur, and we have to further leave for our homes."
When contacted, deputy commissioner of SAS Nagar, Tejinder Pal Singh Sidhu, said, "Proper arrangements were made for everything, and even lunch packets were provided to the farmers. I don't know what happened, but I will look into it."
Local farmers unhappy too
Not only were UP's farmers alleging mistreatment, but even farmers from Punjab were unhappy that farmers from Chhattisgarh, UP and Madhya Pradesh were making beelines to welcome Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal, deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh and UP CM Akhilesh Yadav. "What is our role here?" remarked a farmer from Ludhiana.
Bad day for journalists
SAS Nagar's journalists covering the Punjab agri summit were told to gather near a restaurant in Phase 5 at 9.30am, but had to wait till 11.30am for the pick-up bus. After an hour at the Chappar Chiri benue, they were told to go to the Phase-11 venue. But the bus got stuck in the slush gathered due to the rain over the past few days. Attempts for an hour failed to get it out. Other vehicles were arranged; one of which caught fire due to an apparent technical glitch, and four of its occupants had a narrow escape.