TOBA TEK SINGH

Thousands of growers whose farmlands are situated on both the banks of Trimmu-Head Sidhnai link canal in Pirmahal, Kabirwala and Shorkot tehsils took out a rally against the Punjab government over water-logging here on Saturday.

They blocked vehicular movement in Shahbaz Chowk. Carrying small bundles of wheat plants showing that the water-logging had caused decline in the production, they were chanting slogans demanding the fulfilling of Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s promise to solve the issue.

Addressing the protesters, farmers associations’ leaders Advocate Shafqat Rasool, Nemat Ali Kamboh, Mehr Noor Sargana, Awami Workers Party President Muhammad Zubair, Kissan Ittehad President Muhammad Sarwar, Awaz Forum’s Ghulam Mustafa Paras, and others said that the canal had destroyed hundreds of acres of farmland due to water-logging created due to absence of brickining.

They added that farmers had sown wheat seeds in current season but the crop was ruined as saline water continued flowing through their fields. They claimed that when a delegation of three districts of Toba, Khanewal and Jhang had met with Punjab irrigation secretary, he had promised that water supply will be kept less than 4,000 cusecs in the canal. However, they added, in the recent months, water flow was more than 12,000 cusecs. As a result, their crops could not grow as the water was flowing through their fields and now they had no fodder for their cattle and hundreds of cattle had died due to starvation or malnutrition, they said.

They claimed that hundreds of youth belonging to cultivators of the area were forced to do labour in the city due to heavy loss in the farming. Some of the speakers announced that if their issue was not resolved they will be forced to immolate themselves outside the Punjab CM Secretariat at Lahore.

MPA Mian Muhammad Rafiq said in his speech that he always raised a voice in the Punjab Assembly regarding their issue. He claimed that Rs2 billion had been allocated in the current financial year’s annual development programme on the order of CM by the provincial government but the bureaucracy was a hurdle in starting brickining and it seemed that the allocated money will be relapsed as just a few weeks remained in coming of new budget. Scores of farmers also observed one-day token hunger strike in the same Chowk due to which traffic remained out of gear for several hours on one side of the Chowk. Later, Assistant Commissioner Wasif Bashir held talks with the leaders of the protesters and assured them that higher authorities will be apprised about their demands over which they ended their protest and hunger strike.