Ferozepur, January 17
It’s once bitten twice shy for the protesters who are seemingly in no hurry to lift the dharna notwithstanding Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s announcement to close the ethanol plant situated at Mansurwala village in Zira.
No formal celebrations
- There were no “dhols” or distribution of sweets. A protester said they did not wish to formally celebrate the occasion as they lost their companions during the protest
- “We lost several companions, including Rajvir Singh, Amarjit Singh and Buta Singh. We don’t feel like having any formal celebrations,” said a Sanja Morcha member
HC-constituted panel visits site
- Before the CM announced to shut the plant, a three-member panel constituted by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to ascertain financial losses incurred by the unit visited Mansurwala
- The panel comprising Justice RK Nehru (retd), advocate Babbar Khan and Excise and Taxation Additional Commissioner Viraj Tidke met the farmers near the protest venue
PAC demands resignation of Seechewal
- Kapil Dev, a member of the Public Action Committee (PAC), questioned the credibility of RS MP Balbir Singh Seechewal and sought his resignation
- “Now, the CM has acknowledged that the plant was damaging environment. Why did Seechewal, who came here as a part of the NGT monitoring team, give a clean chit to the factory?” asked Kapil
- Seechewal, however, hailed the decision of the government and tweeted that it would send a strong message to industrial establishments in the state, which were polluting environment
long fight finally pays off
July 22, 2022: Residents of Mansurwala complain that during the drilling of a borewell near gurdwara, “liquor” like toxic fluid started coming out of the ground
July 24: Villagers sit on a dharna in front of the ethanol plant
August 18: A three-member NGT monitoring team visits the plant and collects samples
October 20: Following a petition filed by Malbros International, the High Court directs the state government to deposit Rs 5 crore with its registry within a week
November 29: The High Court directs the government to deposit another Rs 15 crore with the registry and asks the Ferozepur DC to file an affidavit giving details of the protesters
December 15: On a complaint of PAC, the NGT issues a notice to the Chief Secretary, directing him to file a response within two months and to appear on next date of hearing on February 23
December 16: 11 members of the Sanjha Morcha meet CM Bhagwant Mann in Chandigarh over the issue
December 17: Minister Kuldip Singh Dhaliwala arrives at the protest site to announce the decisions taken by the CM. However, the protesters refuse to relent
December 23: Three fact-finding panels constituted by the government — on health analysis, animal husbandary and soil testing — visit the site, but the protesters refuse to join them
January 16, 2023: A three-member panel set up by the High Court to ascertain financial losses incurred by the ethanol plant reaches Ferozepur
Protesting for the past six months, agitators announced that they had called a meeting of all farmer and labour unions on Thursday at 11 am to take a final call on lifting their dharna.
Members of the Sanjha Morcha who had been sprearheading the protest said they would wait for the written orders of the CM in this regard, besides demanding that the state government should immediately withdraw all the cases filed against them during the course of agitation.
“We do not want a repeat of Delhi. Farmers lifted their protest without getting anything in written. Later, we realised that the Centre was not fulfilling our demands,” said Sarpanch Gurmel Singh of Mansurwala village.
The protesters felt elated as the news broke about the state government’s decision to shut the ethanol plant. They raised slogans of “Jo Bole So Nihal, Sat Shri Akal” and thanked Mann. “CM Mann has become our hero today,” said a protester.
Roman Brar, a member of the Sanjha Morcha, said, “We started this protest on July 24. We withstood heavy rains, scorching heat and subsequently faced extreme bone-chilling conditions. We were determined not to give up till achieving our objective.”
Jagtar Singh, another member of the morcha, said, “Groundwater got contaminated, cattle died, soil fertility reduced and locals succumbed due to various ailments in the area. We were just fighting for clean air and water. Finally, our voice has been heard.”
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