Farmer leader Dallewal ends fast after Punjab govt’s apology, assurance
Veteran farmer leader Jagjit Singh Dallewal ended his six-day hunger strike on Thursday after assurance from the Punjab government that their demands will be met.
The Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), Ekta Sidhupur, headed by Dallewal, had been spearheading the protests in Amritsar, Mansa, Patiala, Faridkot, Hoshiarpur and Bathinda since November 16 against punitive action for stubble burning and no compensation for crop damage due to inclement weather and pest attack and land acquisition for national highway projects.
Agriculture minister Kuldeep Dhaliwal met Dallewal at Tehna village in Faridkot where the latter was protesting and offered him a glass of juice to break his fast. Dhaliwal also apologised for chief minister Mann’s recent remark that “protesting had become a ‘riwaj’ with farmer unions”. The minister said the CM’s statement was never aimed at any section of the farmers’ union.
Dallewal, on his part, said the SKM has decided to suspend the agitation till March 31 and will re-launch it if the state government does not fulfil the promises by then.
The minister said several demands raised by the farmer groups have been met and others are in the process of implementation.
In the presence of Dallewal, the minister said it was mutually agreed that a meeting will be held at the state secretariat, Chandigarh, on December 16 to deliberate on various demands.
“The Punjab government is committed to withdrawing all FIRs or red entries made in the revenue records for burning paddy residue. Some district administrations initiated punitive action under the pressure of the National Green Tribunal. The state will withdraw all such actions and provide ample opportunities for stubble management,” said the minister.
An agreement between a 15-member panel of SKM and the state government was reached after daylong deliberations that lasted over 10 hours since Thursday noon.
Earlier in the day, a delegation of SKM walked out of a meeting with officials, including Amritsar police commissioner Jaskaran Singh, Faridkot deputy commissioner Ruhee Dugg and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislator Gurdit Singh Sekhon in Faridkot, saying apology is pre-condition for talks to end the protest.
Farm union leaders initially refused to meet Dhaliwal, who reached Faridkot in the noon for talks with the SKM leaders to end the stir. Dhaliwal waited for over four hours before the meeting started at around 5.30 pm at the guest house of Baba Farid University of Medical Science, Faridkot.
The union had initially a 41-point charter that was cut short to 13 points, including no action against farmers for burning paddy residue, compensation to farmers who suffered crop losses due to pest and virus attacks and whose cattle died due to lumpy skin disease and loan waiver for farmers and farm labourers.
Addressing a press conference in Chandigarh on November 18, Mann had said (road blockades) had become a trend.
“First, they hold a dharna to seek a meeting with the government. Then they stage another dharna when the talks are held. Yet another is staged to demand to issue of notification. It looks like it has become a riwaz. But the common man suffers,” the CM had stated.
A day after CM’s comment, Dallewal started fast unto death in his home district Faridkot.