A month after Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal ordered the framing of a policy to compensate farm labourers for cotton crop loss due to the whitefly attack, the state government is yet to identify labourers for the purpose.
The government had in October announced compensation of Rs 64 crore for labourers, mainly cotton pickers.
Badal had also asked the revenue department to come out with a viable policy for the disbursal of relief to farm labourers in case of such ‘natural calamities’ in future.
As per the government’s decision, the farm labourers are to be paid 10% of the compensation to farmers (Rs 8,000 per acre) for crop damage. It comes out to be Rs 800 per acre, even as farmers and labour unions have been demanding compensation of Rs 20,000 per acre for cotton pickers.
Jora Singh, state president of the Punjab Khet Mazdoor Union, said, “Not even a single labourer has been approached by the authorities concerned to assess the losses.”
He added, “The government will take three-four months to identify the labourers, and another two months to distribute compensation among affected families.”
Sukhdev Singh Kokri, general secretary of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), said the government had not even decided the parameters for the identification exercise.
“We have already decided to hold ‘Lalkaar‘(challenge) rallies at Barnala and Amritsar on December 16 and 19, respectively, to press the government to fulfil our demands, as decided at the October 12 meeting with the chief minister,” Kokri said.
He asserted that if the government failed to pay heed to their demands, farmer unions would sit on an indefinite protest at Badal village in Muktsar district after their ‘Lalkaar’ rallies.
When contacted, Bathinda deputy commissioner Basant Garg said, “We are preparing modalities to identify affected labourers. The work will be completed soon.”