Two months after the formation of its government in Punjab, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is facing its first test in the form of the wrath of the state’s farmers. The farmers have gathered at the border of the Union Territory of Chandigarh in large numbers threatening to storm the state capital on Wednesday if their demands are not met.
Led by Sanyukt Kisan Morcha comprising 22 organisations, hundreds of farmers have broken past the first barricade of the Punjab Police at Mohali and are squatting near the second barricade. They are seeking an audience with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to take up with him the list of demands they had sent to the AAP Government earlier.
However, a spokesman of the Chandigarh police has told the farmers that they won’t be allowed to enter the UT at any cost. If need be reinforcements from BSF and CRPF would be deployed. On the other hand, farmers are adamant on breaking all barricades to enter Chandigarh and gherao the CM’s residence.
The farmers’ main demand is a bonus of Rs 500 per quintal of procured wheat to compensate the damage to the crop due to the heat wave which has resulted in a loss of yield. They are opposing the government’s order to sow paddy in a staggered manner starting from June 18 and ending on June 24.
Punjab has been divided into four zones for sowing paddy in order to ease pressure on the electricity supply and conserve groundwater. But the farmers want the sowing season to start on June 10.
Another demand relates to the lowering of charges on the extension of electricity load from Rs 4,800 to Rs 1,200. The release of pending payment of sugarcane bought by sugar mills is yet another issue. The protesters are also demanding scrapping of the smart electricity meter scheme. They also want the government to immediately announce a minimum support price (MSP) for moong, maize, and basmati rice.
The farmers have arrived with rations, beds, fans, coolers, utensils, LPG cylinders, and refrigerators and say they are prepared to stay put for three months or even more if their demands are not met.
Jagjit Singh Dallewal, state president of BKU declared that they would talk only to the Chief Minister and not to any deputed officers. He threatened to replicate the Singhu border scenario when farmers sat on a dharna on the border of Delhi for over a year to get the three controversial farm laws repealed by the Centre.
Reacting to the protest, Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann said the protest was “unwarranted and undesirable”. Hollow sloganeering cannot stop the government’s resolve to save underground water and electricity, he reiterated.
AAP spokesman Malwinder Singh Kang said that the doors of the government were always open for talks with the farmers but they should be reasonable in their demands.
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