State-wide protests by farmers rocked Punjab on Monday as they took to the streets to demand waiver of farm loans and implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report for fixing minimum support price for produce.
Activists of seven farmers' outfits, including Bharatiya Kisan Union, Kisan Sangharsh Committee and Kirti Kisan Union staged agitations in almost every district of the State in a bid to put pressure on the ruling Congress government to fulfill its election promise on farm loan waiver.
SAD, BJP join protest
The farmers were joined by Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and BJP workers, with SAD president Sukhbir Badal leading demonstrations in Ludhiana. "No State government has lost the confidence of the people as quickly as the Congress government has. The peoples' anger came out on the streets today," tweeted Mr. Badal.
Besides debt relief, the SAD-BJP combine also protested against farmer suicides and “mining mafia”, and demanded the sacking of Cabinet Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, who is facing allegations of impropriety in sand mining contracts.
Leader of the Kirti Kisan Union, Nirbhay Singh, told The Hindu that they had taken to the streets to "remind the government of its election promise of loan waiver to farmers".
Mr. Singh said that if the government fails to take steps towards fulfilling its promise in the upcoming budget session, then the farmers would be compelled to intensify their agitation. Punjab Assembly's budget session is slated to start from June 14 and will end on June 23.
"We will hold a meeting on July 7, if by then the government fails to take action, we will take a call on future strategy of our struggle," he said, adding that the government should give compensation of Rs. 10 lakh to the family of farmers who committed suicide due to debt burden.
Mr. Singh added that the government should also implement the Swaminathan Commission report, which had recommended fixing the minimum support prices (MSP) for crops at levels at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production.
Meanwhile, the Congress hit back at the SAD-BJP combine and termed the protests by it as a "frivolous attempt" to divert public attention from the failure of their own erstwhile government to protect the interests of the Sikh community.