Members of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta Sidhupur) launched an indefinite strike on Tuesday and blocked the Badal-Bathinda road to demand a judicial probe into the sale of substandard seeds and pesticides to cotton growers.
Though the farmers had planned to protest outside the residence of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal at Badal village, but the police foiled their plans and disallowed them to march towards the CM's village.
The police restricted protesters to Nandgarh village, situated 15 km from Badal, following which hundreds of farmers camped on the main road and started raising slogans.
It may be mentioned that even after the state government announced to initiate a girdwari to assess loss to cotton growers, the despair among the farmer fraternity has been growing continuously for the past several days.
Besides a judicial probe, the farmers have been demanding early amendments in the compensation policy by immediately calling an assembly session. However, the farmers demanded `40,000 per acre as compensation to affected farmers.
Meanwhile, on the other side, as per the government policy, in case of 100% damage to the cotton crop, the affected farmers will get compensation of `8,000 per acre, of which 5,400 will be shared by the Centre, while the state government will contribute `2,600.
In the case of 33%-75% damage, the farmers will be compensated at `5,400 per acre, while for 26-32% damage, the farmers will get only `2,000 per acre.
Bogh Singh Mansa, general secretary of the union, said the state government was solely responsible for the loss to farmers, since it failed to check the alleged nexus between the agriculture department and pesticide distributors, which resulted in the distribution of ineffective and spurious pesticides.
"The inquiry announced by the government to check the quality of pesticides is a mere eyewash. Therefore, a judicial probe must be ordered to bring out the truth," he said.
Pertinently, the samples of the pesticides recovered after a raid on private godowns in Raman Mandi, failed the laboratory test and were found unfit for use.
Whitefly destroying the cotton crop. (HT Photo)
The subsidised pesticides, provided to farmers during this season, had failed miserably to control the severe attack of whitefly in the cotton-dominated belt.
"Will the compensation of mere `8,000 per acre help farmers to meet its loss?," asked Kaka Singh, senior vice-president of the union.
"We will not lift the protest till the government initiated a concrete dialogue with us regarding the fulfillment of our demands," he added.
Meanwhile, later in the day, the farmers managed to breach the police cordon and decided to camp in Chak Attar Singh Wala village during the night.
Meanwhile, additional deputy commissioner Varinder Sharma met farmers and assured them of taking up their demands with the state authorities.
Tight security arrangements have been made to maintain law and order in the area.