SAHIWAL: The district chapter of the Pakistan Kisan Ittehad (PKI) is busy holding corner meetings at different villages to mobilise the farmers for participation in the upcoming protest rallies and sit-ins to be held on June 17 and 18 in Lahore and Islamabad, respectively, to press the government for acceptance of their demands.

PKI district president Muhammad Hussain told Dawn that the body’s central leadership in its June 4 meeting held at Arifwala had decided to launch protest sit-ins outside Punjab and national assemblies for pressing the government for accepting farmers’ long-standing demands.

“Keeping in view the [PKI] central committee decision, a mobilisation campaign has been designed for different villages in each district of Punjab,” he said.

He said during the past four days, the PKI held six gatherings at different villages, including 90 Mor, Chichawatni city, Phaato Mor, besides at 47/9-L and 9/11-L villages to mobilise the farmers for joining the agitation.

Pledges to observe corona SOPs during agitation

He said the PKI also staged a protest rally outside Chichawatni Press Club for taking the local media and social media on board with regard to the agitation.

Mr Hussain said the PKI had three major demands -- farmers should be charged Rs5.35 per unit electricity tariff instead of the existing Rs20-30 per unit for agricultural tube-wells, while during Corona pandemic and locust attack the power charges must be dropped to Rs4 per unit, the Fuel Price Adjustment (FPA) and Quarterly Tariff Rationalisation (QTR) must immediately be withdrawn for all agricultural tube-wells and the process for subsidy on fertiliser bags should be simplified.

Presently the farmers get the subsidy amount in their registered through tokens found in fertiliser bags after following a complicated and lengthy process involving use of a mobile phone app.

PKI Punjab President Chaudhry Rizwan said it was a time consuming and complicated process and was not delivering. He claimed that as 90 per cent of the farmers were not registered on the mobile app, the subsidy announced by the government was not reaching them. “Instead the fertilizer dealers and companies were stealing away the subsidy,” Chaudhry Rizwan alleged.

The PKI demands the government should immediately withdraw the token subsidy on each fertilizer bag and give it directly to the farmers by reducing the price of the fertilizer bag in the open market.

The body also demands that because of the losses suffered by farmers during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, interest on all agricultural loans must be withdrawn, says Rana Shamshad, the provincial secretary general of the PKI.

Mr Hussian says during these gatherings the PKI also educates the farmers about social distancing and Corona epidemic. He adds that during the upcoming protest sit-ins the farmers will observe all the SOPs.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2020

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