The issue of pending sugarcane dues of farmers in Sangrur and Barnala took a fresh turn after Dhuri’s Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) wrote a letter to the the chief electoral officer, Punjab, seeking transfer.
The letter, dated March 28, came after the protesting farmers illegally confined the entire staff of tehsil complex, including the SDM, for 30 hours demanding that their dues be cleared.
Stating that the incident has demoralised the staff, the SDM also demanded registration of FIR against the farmers and their arrest for illegally confining him, Tehsildaar Harminder Singh Hundal and 30 other staff members on March 25-26.
The farmers had blocked the Dhuri-Sangrur road demanding that Bhagwanpura Sugar Mill, a private sugar mill, immediately release their dues. The protest was supported by Bharti Kisan Union (Ugrahan).
Meanwhile, the state unit of PCS Officers Association, Punjab State Revenue Officers Association and Punjab state DC office employees association have also written to the chief secretary demanding action against the farmers.
The SDM, in his letter, said that he had joined Dhuri on February 20, 2019 when farmers’ agitation was already going on. “The said agitation was lifted on February 26 following assurance by mill owner. However as the owner failed to fulfill his promise, farmers started a dharna outside SDM office from March 7 onwards by blocking Dhuri-Sangrur National Highway. This dharna was lifted on March 26 evening at 5.30 PM again after assurance by the mill owner to clear the payments amounting to more than 70 crore,” the SDM said.
President of DC Employees Union, Gurnam Singh, meanwhile said, “On March 25, over 200 farmers gheraoed the tehsil complex from all sides and did not allowe the staff to go out. Not only this, some farmers reached the roof of the complex carrying petrol bottles and sulphas tablets challenging government over pending cane dues. It caused immense harassment to the staff who had to spend the night inside the complex. We demand sedition charges be imposed on the errant farmers or we will chalk out our plan of action after Sunday”.
He further said that apart from the SDM and the tehsildaar, 20 DC office employees, including women, remained under illegal confinement. “Hence such farmer unions that dare to challenge authorities by taking law in their own hands need to be banned,” Gurnam Singh said.
Rajeev Gupta, President of PCS officers association, Punjab said that the Dhuri SDM has sought transfer after the incident “as it led to mental torture”. He said the incident took place only because “farmer unions have not been punished and they are bound to repeat” such action. “We are waiting for government to take action and only after that we will decide our course of action,” Gupta added.
It has come to fore that one FIR for blocking national highway was lodged against the farmers on March 7 naming Sarabjeet Singh, Harjeet Singh, Harvinder Singh and 15-20 unidentified persons. However, no investigation was carried out on this FIR and no arrests were made and the farmers named in it continued to remain part of the protest dharna. “Another FIR against farmers has been lodged for illegally confining officers and for illegal entry into a government building, “ said DC Sangrur Ghyanshyam Thori.
“We have lodged two FIRs against them, one for blocking the highway and another for illegal confinement. Arrests are yet to be made as the case is being investigated,” said Dr Sandeep Garg, SSP Sangrur.
Meanwhile, Sukhdev Singh Kokrikalan, general secretary BKU(Ugrahan) said, “If any union member is arrested, we will statge a protest. Farmers had been sitting on dharna since March 7 and they waited till March 25. But when they were not being heard, they had no choice but to gherao the complex office. They were demanding their money and not doing any wrongful act,” Kokrikalan said.