Yesterday, farmers in Panjab had marched down to the state capital Chandigarh to present their demands to the Panjab CM Bhagwant Mann. They were not only stopped in satellite town Mohali, their leaders were lured into taking a bus to meet the CM. However, the CM ran away to Delhi.

Later in the night, as farmers camped on roads, like in Delhi last year, the CM came back to Chandigarh and said: ‘Protests are not the way. Give me one year, I will sort out all issues.’ The farmers had earlier discussed their issues with the government. The government had even made big announcements, but had not put them in writing, issued notifications, so those announcements were not legal tender. Seeing a repeat of government play hide-and-seek, the farmers were determined to make the government accountable.

The farmers’ demands were:

1. A Rs 500 bonus on each quintal of wheat as their yield has dropped and shrivelled because of unprecedented heatwave conditions.
2. Take back installation of 85,000 smart electricity meters.
3. Notification on MSP for Green Gram and Corn.
4. Basmati MSP at Rs 4500 and notification.
5. Panjab nomination to Bhakra Beas Management Board.
6. Electricity should be supplied to Panjab on earlier terms.
7. Paddy sowing from June 10 and not June 18 as ordered by government.
8. Lower charges on the extension of electricity load from Rs 4,800 to Rs 1,200; 10-12 hours of power supply.
9. Release of outstanding sugarcane payment.
10. No more land auctions of loan defaulters.
11. Take back 22,000 cases on loan defaulters.
12. As promised in manifesto during elections, waive off farmer loans up to Rs 2 lakh.
13. Do not snatch away settler lands in the name of recovering Panchayat lands.

Thankfully, today, the meeting between CM and farmer leaders took place. The government has agreed to majority of demands:

- Paddy sowing moved to June 14, Panjab to be divided in two and not four zones. Farmer leaders to propose areas.
- Green Gram MSP notified.
- Promise to give MSP on Corn and issue notification.
- No auctioning of loan defaulter land.
- Smart meters won’t be implemented.
- Release of outstanding sugarcane payment.
- Lower charges on extension of electricity load.
- Intention to not waive farm loans but make farmers loan free.
- To re-look Panchayati land recovery, divide them into two kinds of lands. Not uproot settlers.

CM Mann to meet Union Home Minister tomorrow on: wheat compensation, Basmati MSP, Panjab nomination on BBMB, and others.

On that side lines of this protest, an act played out:

In the last few days, Panjab has been plagued by fires to dry stalks of wheat left after harvesting. In one incident a school bus carrying children caught fire, 10 children were injured, 3 seriously. In another a 1.5 year old girl succumbed to flames as her shanty caught fire as the slum burnt down. While people understand the problem of paddy straw and wheat stalk burning has persisted for years and the system has not provided succour, popular opinion in the state turned against farmers. Especially, farmer unions that do not forbid farmers from starting fires. There is no doubt that straw and stalk burning must end. It destroys land, flora, fauna, insects, now humans too, pollutes land, water and air. But we can dwell upon it in another thread.

For now, as farmers reached Chandigarh, many outraged on social media about farmers being irresponsible, even being beggars seeking sops. Plus the AAP supporters turned against farmers abusing them in the worst language, saying they would get nothing, give government time. Now they are licking their burns.

Sadly, what blind supporters of AAP do not realise is their leaders, perhaps Kejriwal yesterday, would have instructed Mann to not let the farmers protest grow. To end it at any cost. The protest would have been very bad optics for the nascent AAP government in Panjab. The farmers capacity to non-violently agitate is now legendary.

The real point is: given the global food crises, the world is waking up to the merits of an agrarian state, importance of farmers. It is big win today that the AAP government has stood by the farmers. I hope the government continues to stand by the people and Panjab solves all its major systemic agrarian issues – river and canal waters, soil use, crop diversification, reduction of chemicals, and fair price for produce.

Who knows, perhaps Panjab will then start feeling the world as it once fed the country.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 18th, 2022 at 9:49 pm and is filed under Punjab. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed at this time.