Annoyed over the alleged indifference of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government towards their plight, several farmer groups announced they would stage an overnight sit-in (dharna) on Tuesday and start a ‘permanent protest’ from May 17, at the Mohali-Chandigarh border, even as Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann termed the agitation as “unwarranted and undesirable”.
Mr. Mann asked the farm unions to stop mere sloganeering and join hands with State government for checking the depleting water table in Punjab. In a statement, the Chief Minister said that staggered program for sowing of paddy won’t harm the interests of the farmers but it can act as a catalyst to save the water table in the State.
He said that instead of staging protest, the farmers should come forward and support the State government for this noble cause aimed at betterment of Punjab and Punjabis. The Chief Minister asked the farmers to support him for a year and said that if the farmers suffer any loss during this period then the State government will fully compensate them.
Several farmers from across the State were prevented from entering Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana as they had planned to start a ‘pucca morcha’ (permanent protest) until their demands were met and are not willing to relent.
The farmers are demanding compensation to the tune of ₹500 per quintal for low wheat yields this season, and an immediate rollback of the government’s decision to delay paddy transplantation through a staggered program by dividing the State into different zones.
“The government should allow paddy transplantation from June 10 instead of June 18. If paddy transplantation is delayed, it will not only result in more moisture and losses for farmers but also delay the next wheat sowing season. The early onset of summer has resulted in low yield of wheat and we need compensation for the loss. We also want the government to announce procurement of maize with minimum support price (MSP) and fix ₹4,500 per quintal as MSP for basmati rice,” Gurmeet Singh, general secretary of the Krantikari Kisan Union, which is participating in the protest, said.
“We have all come prepared with ration, beds, fans and cooking gas cylinders. We have decided to continue our protest until our demands are met as we did on Delhi’s borders against Centre’s farm laws,” Mr. Singh added.
As several groups of farmers marched on tractor-trolleys, two-wheelers, cars, vans and other vehicles to the State capital, Punjab and Chandigarh Police have been deployed at the border as a preventive measure.
Surjit Singh, president, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Krantikari), said the indefinite protest will start tomorrow (May 18) if the farmers’ demands are not fulfilled. “The government, in the meeting held with us last month, had given assurance on compensation for wheat but so far nothing has been announced. The decision on paddy transplantation has also been one-sided. We were not taken into confidence,” Mr. Singh said.