RAHIM YAR KHAN - Thousands of farmers staged protests at four different places against the low sugarcane rates and blocked National highway for several hours to press the government accept their demand.

Sugarcane farmers from the platform of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad, Kissan Board, All Pakistan Kissan Welfare Association, Agri Forum and Anjuman Kashtkaran Punjab gathered at Iqbalabad, Chandni Chowk, Taranda and Sadiqabad and blocked National Highway at noon.

Speaking on the occasion, the farmers representatives said that five sugar mills of the district including RYK sugar mills, Hamza Sugar mills, Ittehad sugar mills, JDW sugar mills and United sugar mills failed to start sugarcane crushing although it was scheduled to be commenced from October 15. They declared that support price of Rs180 per 40-kg was not suitable and demanded Rs20 increase per maund. The farmers leaders including MD Ganga, Riaz Cheema, Allah Yar Walana and Mian Irshad pointed out that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif announced increase in the sugarcane rate and he should issue a notification in this regard.

Meanwhile Haji Ibrahim, elder brother of the PML-N MNA Mian Imtiaz Ahmed who is also representative of Ittehad sugar mills reached Iqbalabad to negotiate with the farmers. However, charged farmers manhandled and abused him. They tried to take him hostage but some officers of the administration rescued him and took him away from the site of protest.

Later, PTI District President Rana Raheel Ahmed reached Iqbalabad and joined the protesting farmers. He said that he would support the farmers in the struggle for their rights. He said that farmers manhandled the Haji Ibrahim because the sugar mills were deceiving the farmers by not issuing the permits.

The PTI leader said that the sugar mills should provide appropriate rates to farmers.

Meanwhile, when contacted Haji Ibrahim said that he went Iqbalabad to show solidarity with the protesting farmers, adding that after the announcement of Rs180 per 40-kg rate mills had started crushing and issuing permits.

On the other hand, DCO Nabeel Javed claimed that at a meeting with the management officials of five sugar mills and representatives of farmer organisations, the matter of rate was resolved and now sugar mills would procure sugarcane at Rs180 per 40-kg and issue permits regularly. He said that the district administration would monitor the rights of farmers through Assistant Commissioners in all the four tehsils. He declared that the role of middleman and cut in weight of sugarcane would not be allowed.

Farmers up against water-logging

Hundreds of farmers from three districts on Sunday threw traffic out of gear on Shorkot-Toba Road for three hours, demanding brick-lining of Trimmu-Sidhnai link canal.

As per details, hundreds of farmers belonging different villages of Toba, Jhang and Khanewal districts, handing breads around their necks were chanting slogans demanding Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to fulfil his promise by brick-line the Trimmu-Sidhnai link canal.

While addressing the protest farmers, Pirmahal farmers association President Advocate Shafqat Rasool, lumberdars Afzaal Tahir and Mehr Sarang Ali, Toba district Awami workers party president Muhammad Zubair, Kissan Ittehad president Muhammad Sarwar, Haji Rustam and Chaudhry Naseer said that the canal had destroyed hundreds of acres of farmland due to water-logging caused due to non-brick-lining.

They claimed that farmers had sown rice in current season but the crop had ruined as saline water was flowing through their fields and they were unable to harvest it.

They recalled that in October the Punjab Irrigation secretary had assured a delegation comprising farmers representatives from three districts that water supply would be kept less than 4,000 cusecs in the canal, adding that but since November to-date more than 12,000 cusec of water was flow through canal, causing severe problems for the farmers. They claimed that they had even no fodder for their cattle and hundreds of cattle had died due to starvation. They claimed that hundreds of youth belonging to farming families of the area were forced to get labour jobs in the city due to heavy loss in farming.

Later Shorkot PML-N MPA Chaudhry Khalid Ghani and Chuttiana MPA Mian Muhammad Rafiq reached the spot and assured the protesting that they would raise the issue at the floor of Punjab Assembly. They informed that Rs2 billion had already been allocated in current financial year’s annual development programme on the order of CM for the purpose, adding that red-tapism in bureaucracy was a hurdle in starting of brick-lining work. They pledged that they would meet CM to apprise him about the destruction of hundreds of acres of farmland in the three districts due to water-logging.

On the request of both the MPAs, the protesters terminated the protest and traffic was restored on the road.