Farmers detained in Haryana, Punjab ahead of protest for flood relief

Using police force to stop peaceful protesters is a blatant dictatorial act, says a farmer leader

August 22, 2023 08:28 pm | Updated 09:17 pm IST - CHANDIGARH

Farmers block a toll booth on the national highway near Kathunangal village in Amritsar on August 21, 2023 in protest against the arrest of their colleagues ahead of a tractor march to Chandigarh.

Farmers block a toll booth on the national highway near Kathunangal village in Amritsar on August 21, 2023 in protest against the arrest of their colleagues ahead of a tractor march to Chandigarh. | Photo Credit: PTI

Police personnel were deployed in large numbers on the inter-State boundaries of Punjab, Haryana, and in the Union Territory of Chandigarh, in the wake of a demonstration call given by various farmer outfits from six flood-ravaged States, seeking immediate compensation.

The Punjab government, meanwhile, announced that it has released over ₹186 crore to compensate farmers for the crop loss due to floods.

The farmers were planning to gather at Chandigarh – the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana – on Tuesday for the protest, but were stopped midway. Several farmers were taken into preventive custody at Shambhu entry point in Haryana on Tuesday as they headed towards Chandigarh, said officials. In Punjab too, preventive measures were taken and barricades put up as farmers marched towards Chandigarh. Many farmer leaders were detained on August 21, a senior police officer confirmed to The Hindu.

Farmer outfits criticised the governments for detaining their leaders. All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader Inderjit Singh, condemning the detentions, said: “It is most treacherous that the State and Central governments continue to be callous and indifferent even at a time when farmers and other sections of the people of Himachal, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand etc. are reeling under the impact of the unprecedented fury of floods. In these distressed conditions, farmers and agricultural workers are continuously sitting on a series of protest ‘dharnas’ in various States demanding compensation for the losses.”

“Using police force to stop the peaceful protesters from going to Chandigarh is a blatant dictatorial act that infringes on the fundamental right to organise protests and agitations for genuine issues in a democratic set-up,” he said in a statement.

Farmer leader Tejveer Singh of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Shaheed Bhagat Singh) criticised the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party-led government in Haryana and the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab for attempting to silence the voice of farmers by taking them into custody and not letting them exercise their right to peaceful protest.

A farmer died in Punjab’s Sangrur district on August 21 after being run over by a tractor-trolley, while five policemen were injured following a clash between a farmers’ group and the police over the detention of farmer leaders.

List of demands

Farmers associated with as many as 16 farmer outfits from Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand were planning to gather at Chandigarh on August 22 to press for immediate compensation from the Union and State governments. They have been demanding that the Central government announce a special package of ₹50,000 crore for the damage caused by floods in north India, apart from a compensation of ₹50,000 per acre for the loss of all crops. They have also sought ₹1 lakh for the loss of cattle, apart from steps to clear fields of silt deposited by flood waters. Apart from this, all loan recoveries should be put on hold and interest waived for a year, they said.

In a statement, Punjab’s Revenue Minister Bram Shanker Jimpa said the government has released an amount of over ₹186 crore as compensation for farmers in flood-hit districts. He said that advance funds had been released to the Deputy Commissioners of 16 districts of the State from the Natural Disaster Relief Fund to provide relief for crop damage.

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