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Punjab farmers end protest after AAP government accepts several demands

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CHANDIGARH: Punjab farmers ended their protest at the Chandigarh-Mohali border on Wednesday after the Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann-led state government accepted several of their demands.

The development came after representatives of more than 20 farmer bodies held a marathon meeting with Mann at Punjab Bhawan here.

Conceding one of the key demands of the protesting farmers, Mann announced a fresh schedule for staggered sowing of paddy on June 14 and June 17, thus restricting the total number of zones to just two instead of the earlier four.

However, the border belt across the fence has been excluded from the zonal restrictions and farmers of this region have been allowed to sow paddy from June 10.

Notably, it was earlier decided to undertake paddy cultivation in a staggered manner by dividing the entire state into four zones with dates of sowing being June 18, 22, 24 and 26 but the farmer bodies had rejected this schedule.

Mann told the farmer leaders that the state government has already issued a notification to procure the entire moong (green gram) crop at a minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 7,275 per quintal, according to an official statement.

He also said the state government is finalising modalities to also procure maize at MSP to give a boost to its ambitious programme of crop diversification.

On the issue of MSP for Basmati crop, Mann said he will call on Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday to urge the Centre to announce MSP on Basmati crop so as to encourage growers to cultivate it in a big way.

He told Samyukt Kisan Morcha members that he will also take up the contentious issue of change of rules for appointment of top officers to the Bhakra Beas Management Board with Shah.

Later, Rural Development Minister Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal said Mann will also raise with Shah the issue of giving bonuses on wheat to farmers.

Mann urged the union leaders to give him at least a year's time to bring farmer-friendly reforms in the agriculture sector.

He said his office and residence are always open to resolve any issue related to farmers' welfare.

He urged farmers to shun the path of agitation and said if they have any grouse against the government, they should sit across the table to find an amicable solution.

On Tuesday, the chief minister had termed the farmers' protest "unwarranted and undesirable".

Responding to another issue raised by the representatives of farm unions, Mann said the state government will soon come out with a comprehensive policy for bestowing ownership rights on cultivators in possession of panchayat land and cultivating the same crop for long to make barren land cultivable.

He asked Dhaliwal to convene a meeting with the representatives of farm associations to resolve this issue at the earliest.

Later, Dhaliwal shared the details of the meeting with the agitating farmers at the protest site in Mohali and said it was held in a conducive atmosphere.

He told farmers that sugarcane arrears will be released and chip-based smart electricity meters will not be installed.

No arrest warrants will be issued against farmers over their unpaid debt, he added.

Later, Bharti Kisan Union (Sidhupur) state president Jagjit Singh Dallewal announced the decision to lift the protest.

The state government also released a picture of Mann hugging Dallewal after the three-hour meeting.

Earlier in the day, farmer leaders were invited to hold a meeting with Mann and 36 of them were taken to Punjab Bhawan in a bus.

Several temporary teachers also joined the farmers' protest at the site, demanding regularisation of their services.

Scores of Punjab farmers began a protest near the Chandigarh-Mohali border on Tuesday after they were stopped from heading to the state capital to press their various demands, including a bonus on wheat and beginning paddy sowing from June 10.

Farmers had given an ultimatum to the government and had said if the chief minister did not hold a meeting with them by Wednesday, they would break barricades and move towards Chandigarh for holding an indefinite protest.

They spent the night on the Chandigarh-Mohali road near YPS Chowk.

The farmers had submitted a list of 13 demands including Rs 500 bonus on each quintal of wheat as its yield has been low and shrivelled due to unprecedented heatwave conditions, issuing a notification on MSP for maize, moong and basmati, lowering of charges on the extension of electricity load and 10-12 hours of power supply.

They were also against the Punjab government's decision to allow paddy sowing in a staggered manner from June 18.

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)

38 Days ago