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Dharna to demand meeting, dharna during talks, dharna for notification…it has become a riwaaz: Mann hits out at farm unions

Dharna to demand meeting, dharna during talks, dharna for notification…it has become a riwaaz: Mann hits out at farm unions

Dharnas have been staged by different farmer unions during the past few days across the state, especially in Faridkot, Amritsar, Patiala and Bathinda districts.

Taking the farmers’ union head-on, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann Friday slammed them for frequently staging protests by blocking roads in Punjab to get their demands fulfilled, saying the common people were facing inconvenience.

“It has become a trend. First, they hold a dharna to seek a meeting with the government. Then they stage another dharna when the talks are held. Yet another is staged to demand issuing of notification. It looks like it has become a Riwaaz. But common man suffers,” Mann said at a news conference after a cabinet meeting here.

Dharnas have been staged by different farmer unions during the past few days across the state, especially in Faridkot, Amritsar, Patiala and Bathinda districts. The demands include more compensation for the land acquired for national highway projects and for crop damage due to inclement weather and pest attack, cancellation of cases against some farmers and bonus for wheat yield loss.

“I’ve also come to know that some farmers’ outfits only want to stage a sit-in to make their presence felt. They also have to show that they incurred expenses and for that, they have to collect funds from different sources,” Mann added.

The CM appealed to the farmers’ bodies to stage sit-ins, if they had to, near the houses of ministers and legislators or the deputy commissioner’s office, but “do not disturb the common people” by blocking the highways and other roads.

“I’m not their opponent, but if they stop buses and block roads like this, they will also lose public sympathy,” he said.

During the past seven months, Mann said, the AAP government took many decisions for the farmers’ welfare, met most of their demands and some others were in process.

“We have held more meeting with with farmers and their leaders in last six months than the previous governments did in 10 years. We have promised to fulfil their demands. But it requires time,” he said.

Mann said that he comes from a farmer’s family and doesn’t want the anndata to suffer. “I have full sympathy with them and want them to get their due. But to say we had given a notice two days before (for holding a sit-in), this behaviour is not right”.

He said staging a demonstration in a peaceful manner is everyone’s democratic right, but the government should also be given time to meet the demands. Mann requested the farmers’ bodies not to hold sit-ins by blocking roads as people were facing problems. “I hope they will pay heed to my appeal,” he said.

In the wake of the statement, the Bharti Kisan Union (Sidhupur) decided to intensify its protest in Amritsar and another farmers’ outfit did the same in Bathinda. In Amritsar, farmers have been blocking the Kathunangal toll plaza, which is an important link to connect Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

The remarks also invited a sharp reaction from the Shiromani Akali Dal, which asked Mann to apologise for “passing unsavory comments against farmer unions”.

In a statement, SAD spokesperson Daljit Singh Cheema said the farm unions were only asking the government to notify the demands which, had been accepted by it in writing. “The government, while urging farmers to lift their dharna from outside the CM’s residence last month, had agreed to implement the charter of demands presented by the farm unions in a time bound manner. It seems the CM wants to now run away from implementing the demands and that is why he has started bad mouthing the farm unions,” said Cheema.

Asking the CM to fulfill the farmers’ demands, Cheema said, “Compensation for crop damage as well as death of milch animals due to lumpy skin disease should be released at the earliest”. The Akali leader added that farmers farmers should be given an enhanced relief for land acquisition relief, all cases registered against them for “burning paddy stubble in distress be cancelled, and red entries put in revenue records be erased immediately”.

Meanwhile, Mann, listing out the pro-farmer initiatives taken by Aam Aadmi Party dispensation, said that for the first time in the history of the state his government has cleared all the pending arrears of sugarcane farmers. He said his government is giving Rs 380 as State Agreed Price (SAP) for sugarcane, and claimed it was highest in the country.

He claimed that for the first time in the state farmers have got uninterrupted power supply during the paddy season. He said that the state government did not receive a single complaint regarding power failure in the state. He said due to elaborate arrangements made by the state government, the entire process of procurement and lifting of paddy and payment to farmers has been completed without any delay.

Mann said that his government had requested the farmers to adopt Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR). He said that 29335 farmers who opted for DSR have been given Rs 24.35 crore ( Rs 1,500 per acre) as financial assistance.

His government is also encouraging crop diversification in a big way and for the first time, it had offered MSP on the Moong crop. Mann said that this year farmers cultivated moong in 1.25 lakh acres as compared to 50,000 acre last year.

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