Chandigarh, Feb 12 (PTI) Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal on Tuesday held a protest march here along with the families of debt-ridden farmers who committed suicides, accusing the Congress government of going back on its promise of a complete farm loan waiver.
SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and senior party leader Bikram Singh Majithia led the protest march, which began from the MLAs hostel here.
The march coincided with the first day of the Punjab Assembly’s Budget session.
Police stopped the protesters about 500 meters from the assembly complex. Barricades had been erected to prevent them from proceeding towards the assembly.
The workers of SAD and family members of the deceased farmers then staged a sit-in. They demanded a complete farm loan waiver, government jobs and Rs 10 lakh compensation for families of each of the deceased farmers.
Some of the protesters carried photographs of the deceased farmers and narrated their hardships.
“My father, who had taken a loan of Rs 5 lakh, ended his life,” said 11-year-old Manmeet Singh, resident of Bathinda district’s Ganga village, with tears running down his face.
A Class 6 student, Manmeet was unable to talk further.
Suvinderpal, a resident of Ajnala, claimed that in the suicide note his father, Major Singh, had blamed the state government.
Another farmer, Harjeevan Singh, claimed his brother, Sukhdev Singh, a resident of Ferozepur, had also held the state government responsible for his suicide.
The family was “completely ignored” by the government, he added.
Satnam Singh said his uncle Bachan Singh, who hailed from Qadian, committed suicide as he could not get the dues for his sugarcane crop procured by the state.
“The dues are yet to be paid to his family,” he added.
Family members of the farmers claimed that they were still receiving recovery notices from banks.
SAD patriarch Parkash Singh Badal accused Chief Minister Amarinder Singh of betraying farmers.
He also asked Amarinder to either honour his promise of complete farm loan waiver or quit.
“The chief minister has not only back-stabbed the poor and bereaved families of the farmers, but also gone back on the oath he took on the holy ‘Gutka Sahib’,” Badal said.
Sukhbir Badal said the party will take the farmers’ plight to the governor and then, if need be, it will launch a statewide agitation to ensure that the promises made to them are honoured.
Amarinder Singh hit back at the SAD, dubbing its protest march as a “petty political stunt” undertaken with an eye on the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
He alleged that the erstwhile SAD-BJP government had “failed” to do anything for the farmers during its tenure.
He added that the SAD was now resorting to all kinds of “cheap tactics” in a bid to mislead people.
Amarinder Singh claimed his government had already helped 5.83 lakh farmers with its debt relief scheme and would soon cover all 10.25 lakh small and marginal farmers in the state.
He said the SAD’s attempts to undermine these efforts would backfire.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.