Updated: October 6, 2021 10:09:15 am
Even as the Congress party organised protests in various parts of the state on Tuesday against the three farm laws and the detention of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra in Lakhimpur, several farmer outfits are continuing sit-ins and demonstrations in the northern districts of Sriganganagar and Hanumangarh, demanding increased distribution of irrigation water and MSP for their paddy produce.
The farmer organisations have also slammed the Ashok Gehlot-led Congress government over alleged police action on farmers in Hanumangarh.
While the protests in Sriganganagar – under the banner of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) – stem from the state government’s decision to supply irrigation water in the district with a gap of 34 days, the farmers in Hanumangarh are demanding the procurement of paddy on minimum support price (MSP) and also asking for the suspension of police officials, whom they accuse of ordering lathi charge on farmers as they were protesting on Monday.
“As per the latest arrangement of the state government, the gap between the supply of water from the Indira Gandhi Canal is 34 days and till January next year, there will be three such phases. This gap period is too long as our crops for the upcoming Rabi season will require irrigation water. During this time period, our crops would be rendered useless for want of water,” said Sheopat Meghwal, district secretary of the CPM in Sriganganagar and also a member of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS).
Meghwal and his fellow farmer leaders are staging a sit-in near the SDM office in Gharsana, Sriganganagar, demanding increased water supply.
“This is the double standard of the Congress. They even lathicharged farmers in Hanumangarh. Just the way the BJP is not listening to the farmers, the Congress is doing the same thing as well. We are protesting since September 27 and have surrounded the SDM office in Gharsana. We are not letting people go in or go out of the campus,” said Meghwal.
Former MLA Hetram Beniwal who is the district president of the SKM in Sriganganagar told The Indian Express that if the frequency of water supply is not increased, farmer outfits will protest and themselves bring water from the canal to their land.
In an order issued on September 24 from the office of the Commissioner, Command Area Development, it has been said that it is expected from the farmers that after keeping in mind the quantity of irrigation water, they should give priority to those crops which require less water.
Officials cite low levels of water at the Pong dam in Himachal Pradesh which supplies water to the Indira Gandhi Canal as the reason for the increased gap and less number of water supplying turns.
“In the past season, during the filling period of the Pong Dam, the water deposited is less due to less rainfall. This water is allocated to Rajasthan by the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) and is distributed by the state government. This year the water level was very low, around only 1,352 cusecs and after seeing that, the decision on the distribution of irrigation water was taken. We also sought the opinion of the Agriculture Department and followed its guidelines while deciding the distribution limit. Due to the less availability of water, there could be a slight dip in the production. But there is no scope of the crop becoming useless,” said Amarjit Singh, Chief Engineer, Hanumangarh zone, Water Resources Department.
He added that the farmers should keep in mind less availability of water and adjust accordingly.
In neighbouring Hanumangarh district, farmers are staging a similar sit-in, over issues including procurement of paddy and in protest over alleged police action.
“We were staging a protest yesterday near the Hanumangarh collectorate demanding that the government procures paddy when a group policemen lathicharged us and left some of us injured. We want MSP for our paddy produce but at present we have no choice but forced to sell it in rates as low as Rs 1,550 per quintal while the MSP is 1,960 per quintal,” said Resham Singh Manuka, a former sarpanch and Hanumangarh district president of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU).
Manuka, who said that he was a Congress worker before the farm law protests, said that ever since Monday’s incident, the farmers are also demanding the suspension of police officials who they accuse of lathicharging them.
“The Congress is protesting against the detention of Priyanka Gandhi but no Congressmen stood with us after the lathicharge by the police,” said Manuka.
Police said that the farmers had broken the gate of the collectorate and wanted to occupy the premises.
“The farmers had come on tractors and also had broken the gate of the collectorate. They wanted to occupy the premises and protest inside the collectorate campus. We had to use force to send them outside. They are now sitting on dharna outside the collectorate,” said Naresh Kumar Gera, SHO, Hanumangarh Junction police station.
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