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Punjab

Posted at: Dec 6, 2018, 1:31 AM; last updated: Dec 6, 2018, 1:31 AM (IST)

Promised dues by Jan 15, cane growers lift dharna

26-hour blockade of National Highway-1 has commuters harried

Ashok Kaura

Phagwara, December 5

Thousands of commuters were harassed as road traffic between Phagwara and Jalandhar on the National Highway-1 remained suspended for over 26 hours owing to a protest by sugarcane farmers.

The farmers, who had begun their protest outside Wahid Sandhar Sugarmill, owned by Akali leader Jarnail S Wahid, yesterday had moved to the highway in the evening. They had erected tents in the middle of the road and slept there through the night. Arrangement for langar, water and tea went on till the dharna was lifted around 7:30 pm today.

The farmers had been demanding the release of pending dues of Rs 417 crore from sugar mills immediately. They also sought an increase in the State Advised Price (SAP) of sugarcane from Rs 310 to Rs 350 per quintal. Even after the announcement by CM Capt Amarinder Singh regarding the release of Rs 25 per quintal directly to the farmers and release of Rs 65 crore to the sugar mills for clearing dues, the protesters had refused to budge. They finally lifted dharna on the assurance by the Kapurthala administration that the mill in Phagwara will clear dues of Rs 52 crore by January 15 and will start accepting new stock of cane from December 12.

Seven farmer organisations led by Lok Bhalai Insaaf Welfare Society had participated in the dharna. Though heavy police force, including commandos, PAP, Punjab Police and BSF personnel, remained on alert since last evening, normal traffic could be restored only after dharna ended this evening.

Even the Indo-Pak buses had to take a detour via Kartarpur-Kapurthala-Nakodar-Phillaur route. The road traffic from Ludhiana to Jalandhar was diverted via Phillaur-Bilga-Nakodar-Jalandhar and from Phagwara to Jalandhar was diverted via link roads. No vehicles except ambulances were allowed on the 10-km stretch.

Kapurthala DC Mohammad Tayyab and SSP Satinder Singh had been camping in Phagwara since yesterday. They held several meetings with the farmers.

President of the Lok Bhalai Insaaf Welfare Society Baldev Singh Sirsa and various farmer leaders said sugarcane growers had no intention of causing inconvenience to the public, but the state was evasive on their demands. Meanwhile, farmers in Dasuya and Mukerian too lifted the dharna following the announcement of release of their dues.

Book millers, officials for unrest: sad

Bhogpur (Jalandhar): After reports of registration of FIRs against 252 farmers for blocking highways, SAD chief Sukhbir Badal on Wednesday said the cases should be registered against sugar mill owners and officials who could not come to their aid. Leading a dharna outside cooperative sugarmill at Bhogpur, Sukhbir said: “The CM should book his own officials responsible for the lapses and the consequent unrest.” Sukhbir also dared the CM to seal all erring mills. Asked if Akali leader Jarnail S Wahid, who owns the Phagwara mill, should also be booked, Sukhbir said: “He should be booked at the first place. He is the president of the millers and has not paid the dues.”  Deepkamal Kaur

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