HYDERABAD - The Sindh Abadgar Tahreek has warned that the growers would launch a protest movement across Sindh in the first week of April if their demands were not accepted.

Addressing press conference on the other day, SAT office bearers Ghulam Mustafa Leghari and Gul Hassan said upper Sindh had faced heavy damages during 2010 flooding because of man-made breaches while the lower Sindh due to breaches in LBOD and other drains. He said 16 districts of lower Sindh were badly affected by heavy rains in 2011.

Leghari pointed out that the price of wheat this year had been increased only by Rs100 per 40kg whereas the price of sugarcane this year decreased by Rs100 per 40kg. Similar was the case with rice and other crops. He said local growers had to suffer huge losses because of import of onion and tomatoes from India. He said that although the agriculture sector was the backbone of country’s economy, the growers were being pushed against the wall. The growers had further been burdened with 18 per cent GST on agricultural inputs, Leghari said.

In other countries, subsidy was given to the agriculture sector but in Pakistan, more taxes were being imposed on the growers. He said the rainwater was still standing in many districts while encroachments on nullahs and drains had become frequent. He said that no water was available in Tarbela Dam and expressed fear that Kharif crops in Sindh might also be destroyed because of acute shortage of water.

Leghari demanded an end to rotation programme, immediate removal of encroachments on all the natural outlets and waterways, waiver of old loans extended to abadgars and haris and subsidy on all the agricultural inputs. He also demanded withdrawal of GST on agricultural inputs, fixation of rates of crops in consultation with abadgars and haris, minimum procurement price of wheat at Rs1,500 per 40kg and provision of seeds to wheat growers. He said the role of middleman in the purchase of agriculture produce should be eliminated, import of agricultural items should be stopped, free-of-cost fertilizer and seed should be provided to growers in the affected areas and all the crops should be insured.

Leghari said the growers had lost their homes, crops and livestock in the widespread devastations in the past two years. But the government had been paying lip service for the rehabilitation of the poor growers and haris while Pakistan and Watan Cards were issued only to the lucky ones, he said.

He said the so-called distribution of fertilizer and seed was a farce and meant for photo sessions. The seed and fertilizer meant for distribution were stored in the bungalows of waderas and bureaucrats. Billions of rupees had been embezzled by officers and waderas and only jiyalas and NGOs had benefited, he alleged. He said the growers had suffered irreparable losses because of the wrong policies of the government. He said the prices of diesel, fertilizer, pesticides, seeds and agricultural implements had increased by 200 to 400 per cent but the rates of crops had gone down considerably. He threatened to launch a protest movement across Sindh in April if problems of growers are not resolved.