Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann to meet farmer leaders
Chandigarh, May 18: Protesting Punjab farmers on Wednesday said they will be meeting Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann for redressal of their demands, including a bonus on wheat and beginning paddy sowing from June 10.
Farmer leaders said the Mohali deputy commissioner and senior superintendent of police invited them for a meeting with the chief minister in Chandigarh.
“The DC and SSP came to take us (for the meeting) and the message (for the meeting) is from CM sahab,” farmer leader Baldev Singh Sirsa said. “We are going for the meeting,” he added.
Bharti Kisan Union (Sidhupur) state president Jagjit Singh Dallewal said they will demand the redressal of various issues of the farmers in the meeting. However, he said the farmers’ protest at the Chandigarh-Mohali border will continue. “We will reveal the outcome of the meeting later.”
As many as 36 farmer leaders -- who were taken in a bus to the Punjab Bhawan -- will be taking part in the meeting, a farmer leader said. Scores of Punjab farmers protesting against the government over their various demands spent Tuesday night on the Chandigarh-Mohali road near the YPS chowk in Mohali after they were stopped from marching towards Chandigarh.
The farmers, who owe allegiance to various farmer bodies of Punjab, were stopped from heading to the state capital on Tuesday to press the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government to meet their various demands. After being stopped by the Mohali Police, the farmers had squatted and parked their vehicles in the middle of the road. They spent the night on the Chandigarh-Mohali road near YPS chowk.
The protesting farmers are carrying ration, beds, fans, coolers, utensils, cooking gas cylinders and other items with them. Farmers had given an ultimatum to the government and said if the chief minister did not hold a meeting with them by Wednesday, they will move towards Chandigarh breaking barricades for holding an indefinite protest.
Chief Minister Mann on Tuesday had termed the farmers' protest "unwarranted and undesirable" and had asked the farmer unions to stop sloganeering and join hands with the state government to stop Punjab's depleting water table. He had also said his doors were open for the farmers to hold talks but "hollow slogans" cannot break his resolve to check further depletion of the water table. A heavy contingent of the police has been deployed at the Chandigarh-Mohali border. Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu said farmers' demand for bonus on wheat was genuine. “#Farmers demand for bonus on wheat is genuine. Have been raising this issue since beginning of procurement season,” he tweeted.
Several farmer unions, affiliated to the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), had given a call for an indefinite protest in Chandigarh on the lines of the year-long agitation at the Delhi borders against the Centre's three farm laws which were repealed in response to the protests.
Among their various demands, farmers want a Rs 500 bonus on each quintal of wheat as its yield has dropped and shrivelled because of unprecedented heatwave conditions. They are also against the Punjab government's decision to allow paddy sowing in a staggered manner from June 18 to lessen the electricity burden and conserve underground water.
The protesters want the government to allow them to sow paddy from June 10. They also want a notification issued for the minimum support price for maize, moong and basmati. The farmers are also demanding the government to lower the charges on the extension of electricity load from Rs 4,800 to Rs 1,200, 10-12 hours of power supply and release of outstanding sugarcane payments. They are also against the installation of smart electricity meters.