Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Farmers threaten TCP with protest campaign across Punjab on December 11

Protest of the farmers continued in Multan, Vehari, Mailsi and Muzaffargarh. They staged a big demonstration on Monday at Chowk Nawan Shehr (Multan) to protest against Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) for denying to purchasing one million bales of cotton, levy of general sales tax on agricultural inputs, duty on the export of potato by the government and fleecing of sugar mills mafia.

The protest rally was organised by Pakistan Kisan Ittehad (PKI) led by its Chairman Khalid Mehmood Khokhar. The protestors also burnt their wheat and cotton as a token of protest. Kisan leaders alleged that cartel of sugar mills mafia and ginners had damaged the farmers' position and they are unable to grow next crop. The farmers threatened to set cane trolleys on fire, block roads and launch a massive protest campaign throughout Punjab on December 11 and there would be wheel jam strike and sit-in in Punjab province on Thursday.

They said the Punjab sugar mills also demanded reduction in price, setting off protests from the farmers. Pakistan Kisan Ittehad said that it had intimated its districts and tehsil set-ups to get ready for a `huge' protest if the government reduced prices or the millers tried to exploit them because of Sindh price reduction. "We have also asked our local organisations to pull their stocks up and even plan protest rallies and picketing of mills," Khalid Mehmood Khokhar said. "With rice prices already dropping down to rock bottom, cotton prices have refused to pick up even marginally. Cane was the last hope of the farmers. In the given situation, the farmers are left with no option but to take to the streets", he said. Noorul Haq Jhandeer Advocate, a Kissan leader, is of the opinion that the farmers had incurred a loss of Rs 40 billion in cotton because they were forced to sell out at Rs 1800 to 2200 per maund to ginners while its production cost was Rs 30 to 35 per maund. He said that farmers had accepted the cane price of Rs 180 per 40kg with reservations. Given the huge increase in cost of production, they had pleaded for Rs 230 per maund rate. Even the provincial government had calculated cost of production at Rs 194 per 40kg, but it still notified only Rs 180 per maund support price. The farmers accepted it very reluctantly. But the millers refused to cooperate; they first delayed start of crushing season, then they went slow on purchases and waited the glut to build up. With now most of the crop harvested and transported to the mills, they have simply refused to buy it even at the rate of Rs 180 per maund. They are asking farmers to either sell cane at Rs 153 per maund - Rs 2 less than the revised Sindh price-or take it back home. Jhandeer said the farmers would not let it happen. He said the ruling class, be in the government or opposition, owned a majority of mills.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2014

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