Farmers in Punjab today staged protests across the state demanding waiver of farm loans and implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report for fixing minimum support price for produce. Activists of seven farmer outfits, including Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan), BKU (Dakunda), Krantikari Kisan Union, and Kisan Sangharsh Committee, staged dharnas at all district headquarters. The protestors were joined by Shiromani Akali Dal and BJP workers, with SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal leading demonstrations at Ludhiana.
Besides debt relief, the two parties also protested on issues like farmer suicides and “mining mafia”, and demanded the sacking of cabinet minister Rana Gurjit Singh, who is facing allegations of impropriety in sand mining contracts. “All seven farmer organisations held dharnas outside the offices of all the deputy commissioners in the state in support of our demands,” said BKU (Ugrahan) secretary general Sukhdev Singh.
“We want the state government to announce debt waiver as soon as possible,” he said, adding that the government should take steps to make farming profitable for growers. Congress had said in its poll manifesto that it would waive farm debt. It had promised ‘karza-kurki khatam (elimination of loans and auctions), fasal di poori rakam’ (complete payment for produce).
After coming to power, the government formed an expert group under the chairmanship of T Haque, a former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, to assess the quantum of agricultural debt and suggest ways and means for farm debt waiver. The BKU (Ugrahan) secretary general said that farmers are also demanding the implementation of Swaminathan Commission report that recommended fixing the minimum support prices (MSP) for crops at levels at least 50 per cent more than the weighted average cost of production.
“We also want the state to fix compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the family of farmers who committed suicide because of debt burden,” Singh said. The outfits submitted a memorandum to the Centre through district administrations in support of their demands. “The dharnas were peaceful and held for three hours outside district headquarters across the state,” Singh said.