At first the BJP government appears to be at the centre, and now the Bhagwant Mann-led government in Punjab appears to be on a collision course with farmer unions due to ongoing protests in the state. The prime minister took on the unions on Friday, saying some of them were organizing dharnas for “monetary considerations”.
Mann said farmer unions held the state government to ransom by blocking roads and organizing dharnas to meet their demands. “Blocking roads and stopping the flow of traffic is not good. It is becoming a trend to keep dharnas. People are harassed. So far you have sympathy from the public, but you also lose it if the public is inconvenienced by your actions. It is your right to hold democratic protests, but please do it outside our MLAs/ministers’ homes or DC office,” he said.
The CM launched a scathing attack, saying some farmers’ unions were protesting only to mark their presence. “Some of them, not all of them, have made advance bookings for dharnas. They organize a dharna first to seek a meeting with the government… and then organize another one after the meeting. They do it to seek money and have to show that the money raised is being used,” he added.
During the agricultural legislation agitation, the Aam Aadmi Party had sided with farmers’ groups and were seen cooperating cozily with the unions. An agitated Mann said his government had made a number of farmer-friendly decisions over the past seven months.
“Of the 624 farmers who died in battle, the relatives of 326 are already employed. As more government vacancies arise, the remaining ones will be adjusted,” he said.
Several farmers’ unions organize dharnas in the state – in Amritsar, Faridkot, Mukerian, Patiala and Talwandi Sabo. These unions are demanding jobs for the bereaved and monetary compensation for families of farmers who have died in years of fighting against agricultural laws. In addition, they are asking for a bonus for loss of wheat yield, cancellation of FIRs against farmers for stubble burning, among other things.
Mann went on to say that the government had accepted almost all of these demands. Farmers still protesting in the state, however, were not happy with the CM’s words and threatened to intensify their agitation.
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