Sugarcane growers from the border areas of the district, led by the Jamhuri Kisan Sabha, held a protest on Monday against the Punjab government's proposal to set up a Central Jail on the arable land of the sugarcane mill at Bhallapind, terming it as a big blow to sugarcane cultivators, sugarcane research and crop diversification.
The protesters fear that the government might close the mill, which might cause financial losses to sugarcane growers. However, Amritsar deputy commissioner Rajat Aggarwal said that there was no proposal to close the mill. He said the government only intended to use that part of the land which had been leased out and was being used to cultivate wheat, to construct the jail. He said the final decision on whether the land was to be used for this purpose or not was yet to be taken.
The protesting farmers urged the state government to keep sugar mills in the cooperative sector, strengthen sugarcane research and drop the proposal to set up a jail on the land of the sugarcane mill. Stating that there is a proposal to construct a Central Jail on 72 acres of arable land in the sugarcane farm in Bhallapind village, the protesters said the government should look for non-agricultural land for this purpose.
Terming this as a bid to usurp the entire mill, the farmers said that they would not tolerate any such move. Dr Satnam Singh Ajnala, president, Jamhuri Kisan Sabha, charged the Punjab government with either crippling or closing down the sugar mills in the state. He said the authorities at the sugarcane mill at Bhallapind were yet to clear the dues of sugarcane growers amounting to Rs 13 crore.
"The construction of a Central Jail in the sugarcane farm would cause financial losses to sugarcane cultivators," Ajnala said. He cited the example of the sugarcane farm at Jalandhar, 164 acres of which, according to him, was given for construction of a hospital in 1992-1993. "As a consequence of such actions, we are still lagging in sugarcane research," he said.