Sugarcane farmers demanding a fair price for their crop mounted a protest on the Jalandhar-Amritsar highway on Friday, with hundreds camping out in the middle of the road and forcing diversion of traffic from both cities, as well as Ludhiana, Pathankot and nearby areas.
Visuals of the protest showed hundreds sitting on NH 1, waving farmer union flags and shouting slogans against the government. As many as 32 farmer unions have gathered for this protest.
They have also blocked the railway track near Dhanowali village, due to which the Shane Punjab Express (from Amritsar to Delhi) was stopped at the station in Jalandhar. At least seven other trains, including the SVDK Vande Bharat Express, have also been affected.
The farmers, who gathered under the banner of Doaba Kisan Sangharsh Committee, have complained that sugarcane growers in neighbouring Haryana get Rs 48 more per quintal.
Farmer leaders said the per quintal price of sugarcane in Haryana was Rs 350 last year and Rs 358 this year. In Punjab, however, the price has remained at Rs 310 for the past five years.
Earlier today the Amarinder Singh government announced an increase of Rs 15 per quintal, but this has been deemed insufficient by the irate farmers.
They have reportedly demanded a Rs 70 per quintal hike.
After this hike the SAP of sugarcane in Punjab has gone up from ₹310 to ₹325 for early variety, ₹300 to ₹315 for mid-variety and ₹295 to ₹310 per quintal for late maturing variety.
— Mohammad Ghazali (@ghazalimohammad) August 20, 2021
Farmers have also asked the Punjab government to clear pending dues of nearly Rs 200 crore.
This is part of the over Rs 18,000 crores due for purchase of produce by various state governments from the sugarcane farmers, including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.
UP farmers had warned of similar protests if the Yogi Adityanath government did not pay the dues.
This protest comes as the centre continues to face discontent from the farming community – widely seen as being led by Punjab farmers – over its three controversial farm laws.
Last week Chief Minister Amarinder Singh met Prime Minister Modi in Delhi and urged him to begin the process of recalling those laws, protests against which have been rumbling on for over a year.
Mr Singh told the Prime Minister there is “widespread resentment” against the farm laws in Punjab and other states, and that protests had “cost the lives of over 400 farmers and farm workers”.
Farmers say they want all three laws to be scrapped but the centre is only willing to make modifications, and insists the laws will prove beneficial in the long run.