A farm union protesting for the past five days over the non-payment of dues by Phagwara Sugar Mill Saturday lifted the blockade from one side of the Jalandhar-Ludhiana stretch of the National Highway-1. However, farmers said they will continue to block one side of the highway.
The decision by the Bharti Kisan Union (Doaba) came after state Agriculture Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal said his government has withdrawn the letter of open auction of the mill property and directed the Kapurthala deputy commissioner to expedite direct registry of it. Dhaliwal had held a two-hour-long meeting with farmers’ representatives and senior officials here late Friday evening.
The open auction letter had become a bone of contention and angered the farmers, the minister had said. BKU (Doaba) president Manjit Singh Rai, and general secretary Satnam Singh Sahni said blockades on roads leading to Hoshiarpur, Nakodar and Nawanshahr have also been lifted. Service lanes and other arterial routes were also cleared of any obstacle for the convenience of the public, they said.
The one side of the Jalandhar-Ludhiana section of NH-1 had been blocked since Monday while the other side was blocked on Friday.
The farmer leaders said they were given the government’s letter through which the condition of open auction of sugar mill’s Fatehabad property was withdrawn. They said the minister shared several other measures to be taken for making the mill management fall in line.
However, the farmer leaders said a massive gathering of farmers from all over Punjab will be held here on August 25 if Rs 72 crore of cane farmers were not cleared by then.
All 31 constituents of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha will take part in the massive morcha of August 25, they said. They also said they have not called off their protest. “Our indefinite ‘dharna’ and partial blockade will continue,” they said.
“We have already been allowing school buses, emergency cases and ambulances during our earlier blockade,” they said.
Meanwhile, farmer leader Balbir Singh Rajewal, while addressing the sit-in, asked the government not to nurture any misconception that farmers were divided. “We may have certain differences of opinion but when it comes to struggle, we all are one,” said Rajewal.
He alleged that the mill owner cheated farmers by not paying their Rs 72 crore arrear. He said it was the government’s responsibility to get their dues from the mill and give it to farmers. “Why should farmers run after mill management for getting their own money,” he asked.
Jalandhar Cantonment MLA Pargat Singh, who joined the dharna, assured farmer that opposition MLAs will meet Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann and raise their issues with him.