SADIQABAD/TOBA TEK SINGH/MANDI BAHAUDDIN - Under the aegis of Kissan Board, a farmers' union, hundreds of farmers held protest demonstration and staged a sit-in that continued for approximately three hours as the protesters had blocked the GT Road near Chowk Bahadarpur by setting fire to old tyres.

As a result, miles-long queues of vehicles were being witnessed on both the road sides thereby cutting off road transport link of Sindh and the Punjab. In fact, the Kissan Board has expedited protest activities across the country for acceptance of their demands and early resolution to their problems.

The farmers' leaders on the occasion said that the government was exploiting the farmers. They were of the view that the farmers were not being paid reasonably for their produce. They tried to justify their protest by saying that the prices of fertilisers, pesticides, seed and diesel have increased manifold while those of agricultural products were not being increased. They demanded that the prices of agricultural products should be increased in line with dearness in the country. They added that loadshedding had hit them hard. They reiterated that the farmers should be provided agricultural input at subsidised rates else they would continue protests.

They urged the government to immediately accept their demands otherwise the farmers across the country would again hold protest under the aegis of the board. The protesters included Kissan Board Rahim Yar Khan President Riaz Ahmad, Secretary General Muzaffar Ghafoor and other office-bearers Qadeer Ahmad, Abdul Khaliq, Mukhtar Ahmad, Manzoor Ahmad, Tariq, Ramazan, Fakhruzzaman, Irshad Ahmad, Shafiq Ahmad and Saleem Khan besides the hundreds of farmers.

In Toba, a large number of growers rallied on Tehsil Road against what "they called" the government's anti-farmers policies. The participants of the rally were addressed by KBP central Punjab Vice President Mahfooz Aslam Dhilon and District President Soofi Muhammad Rasheed who said that on one side the government was writing off loans of big landlords and capitalists while on the other high mark-up loans were being issued to small farmers by the banks. They lamented that high prices of agricultural inputs had disabled the growers to earn anything from farming. They claimed that a lot of farmers could not sow wheat in current sowing season as they were unable to purchase diesel, wheat seed, pesticides and fertilizers.

Later, a delegation of the protesters held talks with DCO Syed Javed Iqbal who assured them that he would convey their demands to the higher authorities to provide them with relief.

Meanwhile, farmers of Mandi Bahauddin district held a rally at Mangat under arrangement of Kissan Board to press their demands. They blocked Mandi Bahauddin-Phalia Road and raised slogans in favour of their demand. Addressing the rally, Kissan Board Central President Zafar Hussain Khan said that the government was completely ignorant of the plight of farmers who were the backbone of national economy. He said that prices of fertilizers and pesticides were touching sky but agriculture produces' rates were kept low. He said that it was great injustice with the farming community. He demanded to raise price of sugarcane from Rs170 to 280 per mound. He also demanded interest free loans for purchase of agriculture equipment, pesticides and fertilizers.

He also stressed the need for the payment of sugarcane within 15 days by the sugar mills. He warned that if their demands were not met farmers would launch protest movement across the country and besiege the Parliament to get their voice heard. He also threatened to stop sugarcane supply to mills. Kissan Board Chairman Riaz Warraich and other district office-bearers also spoke on the occasion.