Saturday, January 11, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Cold wave fails to deter farmers
Road blockade to continue until dues are paid
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Kharar, January 10
Undeterred by the freezing cold, hundreds of farmers have been blocking the Chandigarh-Jalandhar national highway, near here, for the past three days to press the Punjab Government to pay their sugarcane dues worth Rs 80 crore of last year. Today was their third day of round-the-clock dharna on the road.

In view of the agitation, the authorities concerned have diverted traffic from Chandigarh to Ludhiana via Sohana and to Jalandhar and Himachal via Mullanpur Kurali.

Farmers have come from almost all parts of the state. Farmers have been awaiting payment for sugarcane supplied to various sugar mills.

Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, President of the Bharti Kisan Union, told The Tribune that farmers had held a dharna six months ago in this connection, which was lifted on an assurance given by Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, Punjab Animal Husbandry Minister, that payments would be made by Dasehra. However, no payment had been made till date.

Though farmers have been on a dharna for the past three days neither any minister nor any top officer has come to meet them to give any sort of assurance on behalf of the Punjab Government. Mr Lakhowal said farmers were not asking for anything fresh from the state government. They were only asking for their dues. Mr Lakhowal said as per the norms, the government should have made payments to farmers within 15 days from the supply of the cane.

Farmers would continue the road blockade until their dues were paid. However, the government is in a tight spot because there is a stock of sugar worth Rs 400 crore lying with various sugar mills. The Punjab Government has urged the Union Government to lift the stock of sugar so that it can clear the dues of farmers.

Farmers participating in the road blockade are being helped by residents of nearby areas. Food is being supplied to them by villagers turn by turn. Even 50 quilts have been arranged for them. Many farmers sleep under the open sky in their tractor-trailers.

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