WHILE THE weather held out, poor attendance and a protest by the PAU students union marred the opening day of the two-day Kisan Mela, which began at the PAU grounds on Friday morning. With hardly any footfall, the inaugural day was wound up at 4 pm instead of the routine 6 pm of the previous years.
A massive dharna by farmer unions at Mohali, over their pending demands and the general agriculture recession appears to be responsible for the low response. The weather forecast of rainfall on March 18 and 19 is yet another reason for the low footfall, but weather remained clear throughout Friday. Light showers are expected for Saturday.
There was also no formal inauguration of the mela as the PAU students union staged a dharna in front of ribbon cutting gate and took out a rally on all the roads in the university where stalls had been exhibited. PAU V-C Dr B S Dhillon also took a hurried round of the mela along with guest of honour Christopher Gibbins, Counsel General of Canada in Chandigarh, while sitting in his official vehicle instead of meeting the farmers in person and visiting various stalls.
Gibbins came out of the car along with V-C at one or two places as the ribbon cutting ceremony could not take place, V-C entered the open air theatre along with guest of honour from the other gate to address the farmers and interestingly, the pandal was not even half filled when the speeches were on.
By the time the mela began at 10 am, member of the Punjab Agriculture University Students Union (PAUSA) were already seated at the gate in protest. They sat there till noon and shouted slogans against the government. The students are upset at the government’s recent decision making a masters degree mandatory for jobs in the agriculture department.
Director extension education Dr RS Sidhu who is also coordinator of Kisan Mela, however, said, “Everything went smoothly and we did not face any hassles”.
Speaking at the event, V-C B S Dhillon asked farmers to start maintaining account books so as to focus on expenditure and profit apart from only yield. “Only a few farmers are doing this as of now, so our job is to advise farmers so that they can reduce their debt and focus on profits,” Dr Sidhu said.
Gibbins, meanwhile, lauded Punjab’s farmers and said, “Canada has a deep association with Punjab. Of 12 lakh Indo-Canadians, 7 lakh are from Punjab. Punjabis are making immense contribution to the agriculture sector in Canada”. He added that they would like to expand research programmes by venturing jointly with Punjab in dairy and fishery sectors, food processing, farm mechanisation and climate change.