January 14, 2003, Chandigarh, India
Farmers lift road blockade
Kharar, January 13
The government also announced to defer the recovery of all cooperative loans in the area of other cooperative sugar mills till the remaining dues of farmers were cleared by the mills concerned.
Before lifting the blockade, Mr Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, Mr Manjit Singh Quadian and other BKU leaders held a meeting with Mr Jagmohan Singh Kang, a minister, and Mr Birdevinder Singh, MLA from Kharar. Later both Mr Kang and Mr Birdevinder Singh announced on behalf of the government that a deputation of government representatives and BKU leaders would visit Delhi next week to press Union Minister Sharad Yadav to lift levy sugar stocks from Punjab’s cooperative mills so that the remaining dues could be cleared.
About Rs 66 crore is still pending against the mills. The levy sugar stock worth Rs 450 crore is lying with sugar mills in Punjab.
Both Mr Kang and Mr Birdevinder Singh requested top BKU leaders for help to press the Union Government to bail out the state government from a financial crisis. Both leaders apologised to the farmers who had to face chilling cold to seek their dues. “The government was utterly helpless as far as the clearing of the dues is concerned”, said Mr Kang. When Mr Kang tried to apportion the blame regarding the non-payment of dues on previous Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, BKU leader Lakhowal intervened to tell Mr Kang that he should only confine to his government. Mr Kang immediately skipped the topic.
In a lighter vein Mr Birdevinder Singh urged BKU leaders that as the dues of farmers of Ropar district and the surrounding areas had been cleared, they should in future not stage any dharna in Kharar but look for another “chowk” for such a protest.
However, a section of the farmers was not happy with the outcome of the agitation. Certain BKU leaders said it was the betrayal of farmers of other districts as the government had cleared the dues of farmers falling in the area of Morinda sugar mill and not of other mills. “Farmers of other parts of the state who participated in the dharna would certainly feel let down by the BKU leadership”, said a member of the executive committee of the BKU.
In fact, he was feeling so agitated that at one stage he said he would quit the BKU on this ground. “No farmer from other parts of the state would come to take part in any agitation launched by farmers in this district because an impression would go around that farmers in Ropar district are selfish and fight only for their own interests”, said the BKU leader who incidentally belonged to Ropar district.
However, Mr Lakhowal said he was fully satisfied with today’s agreement as farmers of other parts of the state would not have to return cooperative loans till their dues pertaining to sugarcane were cleared by the government.
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