Several farmers leaders were on August 21 detained in Punjab, a day ahead of a slated demonstration by farmers unions from flood-ravaged States of north India. They are seeking immediate flood-relief compensation.
Farmers from across the State have begun marching towards Chandigarh to participate in the demonstration. In Sangrur’s Longowal village, police personnel and farmers clashed after an attempt to breach a police barricade. One farmer later succumbed to his injuries.
The police said farmers associated with BKU Azad Union were marching towards Badbar Toll Plaza on Barnala-Sangrur National Highway to establish a picket when police attempted to stop them. “When barricades were breached and tractor trolleys began moving forward the police tried to stop them but they pressed on. An Inspector was nearly caught under a tractor trolley. The same trolley ran over an old farmer Pritam Singh who was serious injured. He died during treatment,” said Sangrur’s Senior Superintendent of Police Surendra Lamba.
Police said preventive measures are being taken. A senior police officer confirmed to The Hindu that a few farmer leaders have been detained, however, the number has not been confirmed so far.
The move invited sharp criticism from opposition political parties and farmer unions. The Congress party accused the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government of unleashing a “draconian agenda” on the farming community and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) condemned the action.
Farmers associated with as many as 16 unions from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand have decided to gather in Chandigarh on August 22 to press for immediate compensation from the Centre and State governments.
Hitting out at the AAP government, Mr. Bajwa said “Leaders of 16 unions led by the Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC) have been arrested in different parts of Punjab since Monday morning. The so-called Badlav (change) and pro-farmer government has unleashed its draconian agenda again. This time farmers are at the receiving end.”
Senior SAD leader Daljit Singh Cheema said the AAP government was sprinkling salt on the wounds of the peasantry by refusing to release compensation and instead arresting farmer leaders who wanted to highlight the misery of farmers, farm labourers and poor sections of society.
Farmers groups are demanding an immediate release of compensation for flood victims in all states affected by floods. . The unions include: Kissan Majdoor Sangarsh Committee, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Karantikari), BKU Ekta-Azaad, Azaad Kissan Committee (Doaba), BKU (Bheramke), BKU (Shaheed Bhagat Singh), BKU (Sir Chotu Ram), Bharti Kissan Majdor Union, Kissan Maha Panchayat (Haryana), Pagri Sambhal Jatta (Haryana), Azaad Kissan Union (Haryana), Progressive Farmer Front, Aathrai Kissan Manch, Bhoomi Bachao Mohim, Joint Kisan Sabha and Rashtriya Kissan Sangathan.
Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union said the arrests were a denial of constitutional rights. He said police and the AAP administration were responsible for the death in Sangrur. Farmers leaders claimed that in Haryana, arrests were made in Ambala and Kurukshetra districts.
Farmers have been asking the central government to announce a special package of ₹50,000 crores for damage caused by floods in north India, besides a compensation of ₹50,000 per acre for the loss of crops. They want the government to pay ₹1 lakh for the loss of cattle, and arrangements to be made for clearing of fields filled with sand by floods. A waiver on loans and interest for one year has also been demanded.