Farmers begin protest against Punjab government
Scores of farmers in Punjab on Tuesday sat on a protest near the Chandigarh-Mohali border after they were stopped from heading to the state capital to push the Aam Aadmi Party-led government to meet various demands, including a bonus on wheat and beginning paddy sowing from June 10.
The farmers, who were seen arriving with ration, beds, fans, coolers, utensils, LPG cylinders and other items, said they would not leave the spot till their demands were met.
Chief minister Bhagwant Mann, who reportedly flew to Delhi and returned later in the day, termed the agitation as “unwarranted and undesirable” and urged the farmers to end their sloganeering and join hands with the state government to check Punjab’s depleting water table.
A heavy contingent of police was deployed along the Chandigarh-Mohali border after several farmers’ bodies recently gave a call for an indefinite protest across the state capital over their demands. Mohali police put up barricades and tippers and even rolled out water cannons to prevent the protesters from entering the Union territory. Chandigarh police also made similar arrangements to keep a check on the agitators.
“Our main demand is to allow us to carry out paddy transplantation from June 10 instead of June 18,” Jagjit Singh Dallewal, farmer leader and state president of Bharti Kisan Union, said.
The state government has divided the state into four zones for paddy sowing from June 18, 20, 22 and 24, respectively.
A few farmers said the chief minister on April 17 had held a meeting with various outfits but the issues remain unresolved.
“The chief minister had met farm bodies on April 17.... But the issues flagged by us remain unaddressed,” Kranti Kisan Union general secretary Gurmeet Singh Mehma said.
Taking note of the protests, Mann said the staggered plan for paddy sowing was not against the interest of the farmers but would act as a catalyst to save the water table in the state.
“My doors are open for talks with the farmers but hollow slogans cannot break this firm resolve to check the further depletion of water table,” he said after returning from Delhi.
AAP state unit chief spokesperson Malvinder Singh Kang also said the state government is committed to the welfare of the farmers and will address their demands in due time.