THE PROPOSED dharna of eight farmer unions came a cropper on Monday as heavy police force deployed in the area did not allow them to march to Chandigarh.
Under the banner of Karza Mukt Morcha, farmers from several districts of Punjab were to march to the capital to protest against “anti-farmer” policies of the state government.
While the police had earlier detained a few leaders of the unions, the police force deployed in various districts on Monday managed to stop protesters from marching ahead, forcing them to protest at the village level.
Jhanda Singh Jethuke, president of Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan) – Punjab, said, “We staged dharnas wherever we had assembled in large numbers. Our dharna is going on at 10-12 places and it will continue overnight as well. On Tuesday, our joint body of farmers will decide what to do next.”
“We want a law that will not force us to mortgage our lands for loans. We also want Rs 5 lakh as compensation for families of those farmers who commit suicide. The government is yet to distribute the Rs 3 lakh compensation for those who committed suicide. In Mansa and Faridkot, many files of farmer suicide cases have been misplaced by administration and we are being asked to come again and again to offices to present documents,” said Jethuke. “Although cow cess has been imposed in power bills, nothing is being done to control stray animals roaming on streets, which damage crops and cause accidents as well.”
In Tarn Taran, the police lathicharged protesters, injuring around 40 of them. The police claimed that they were attacked by the protesters, forcing them to act.
“Our police personnel were injured in the attack,” said Jagmohan Singh, SP (D) Tarn Taran.
“It is murder of our democratic rights,” said Satnam Singh, a farmer union leader. “Police lathicharged a peaceful protest. They are not allowing us to treat our injured properly. Why can we not go to Chandigarh? Are we from Pakistan? Do we need visa to go to Chandigarh?”
“Even though police did not allow us to go to Chandigarh, this does not mean that we kept quiet. Our protest continued and in fact became stronger. We will continue to raise voice demanding debt waiver for farmers,” said Sukhdev Singh Kokri Kalan, general secretary, BKU Ugrahan.
The police detained more than 100 farmers after they blocked Amritsar-Delhi national highway for around five hours.
In Abohar, the protests were led by Congress MLA Sunil Jakhar. He said that if compensation was not disbursed before the start of the next Vidhan Sabha session (September 8), then he would gherao the CM along with other Congress MLAs.
Jakhar said that while cotton farmers were compensated for the whitefly attack last year, not a single farmer was compensated for the loss of guar and moong crop.
“Over Rs 44 crore is the compensation to be distributed to these farmers, for which a survey has also been done but money is yet to be disbursed,” he claimed.
In Mohali, the farmers who wanted to hold a protest march in Sector 17, Chandigarh, were stopped at Mohali border. Some protesters managed to reach up to Balongi where they held a protest and blocked the traffic on Mohali-Kurali road for around one hour.
The Chandigarh Police even deployed drones to keep an eye on the parks near Sector 17. Aroud 2,500 police personnel were deputed in the city to stop the farmers from entering the city.
Kulwinder Singh Chahal, secretary of the union, alleged that the police stopped many vehicles outside the limits of Mohali district and many of their supporters were forcibly sent back so that they could not hold the protest.
Chahal said that their main demand was compensation to the families of those farmers who committed suicide due to debt. If the Punjab government cannot give the compensation then kin of the victims should get a government job.