September 21, 2023

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Dharna outside Punjab CM’s office enters Day 2, protestors say Bhagwant Mann has no time for them | Chandigarh News

3 min read

The indefinite dharna outside Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s office in Dhuri by the Nehru Paani Prapti Sangharsh Committee (NPPSC) entered Day 2 on Thursday. Farmers of over 75 villages are protesting the non-completion of a canal water project which will help bring water to the villages.

The protesting farmers want sub canals in the villages that are connected to the main canals — the Bathinda branch and the Kotla branch canals.

The farmers alleged that they had submitted two memorandums to the CM at his Dhuri office on August 8, 2022 and later on September 17 that year through the tehsildar of the area.

In October 2022, panchayats of 47 villages had passed resolutions seeking supply of canal water. On March 6, 2023, they also organised a mahapanchayat in Dhuri in this regard.

Speaking to The Indian Express, the farmers said they were assured of a meeting with Mann at Kisan Bhawan in Chandigarh on March 13, 2023, but he did not turn up. Instead, his officials met the farmers.

In May 2023, the farmers organised another convention in Moga raising this issue and later started an indefinite dharna from September 20, a prior intimation of which had been given to the administration, the protestors said.

One of the protestors, Megh Raj said, “These (75) villages fall in Dhuri, Amargarh, Malerkotla and Mehal Kalan constituencies and earmarking of sub-canals had been done way back in 1986. However, the sub-canals were never constructed and the project always remained on paper.”

He added, “Now the water level is going down in these areas but the government is mum on the issue.”

Another protestor, Mehar Singh said, “During the Congress rule, Bhagwant Mann used to sit with us in our dharnas and now he doesn’t even meet us. Hence, we had no choice but to stage a dharna outside his office. Last year, sugarcane farmers had also staged a dharna outside his office during which two farmers sat on his office’s water tank.”

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Singh said the sugarcane protestors were demanding their pending dues and although some dues were paid, a private sugar mill is yet to release Rs 20 crore it owes to the farmers. “It seems that the CM is not bothered if someone is sitting on a dharna outside his office or any other part of the state,” he said.

Bhupinder Singh Longowal of the Kirti Kisan Union, who is also a part of the NPPSC, said, “Punjab can use canal water only if there is a network of canals. Otherwise, there is no point giving speeches and claiming that Punjab uses less canal water than Rajasthan.”

The farmers have erected a stage on the road outside Mann’s office from where they give out speeches. While most of them stay during the daytime, some of them sleep overnight in tractors. A langar is also being arranged at the protest site, Longowal said.

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