LAHORE: Farmers pledge to continue their protest against exorbitant hike in petroleum prices, unavailability of fertiliser and higher prices of the compost as police thrashed and arrested hundreds of them at the southern entrance of the city on Tuesday.
Members of the Kisan Board Pakistan, a body representing smallholder farmers belonging to various districts assembled at Thokar Niaz Beg in the morning and staged a sit-in, blocking the Multan Road to press the government for their demands.
Police baton-charged and arrested 200 of the sit-in participants before noon to disperse the protesters but to no avail.
Later, the district administration requested the protesters to give some way to the traffic with the promise of releasing their arrested colleagues. The talks for the release of them were continuing late in the evening.
KBP vice-president Amanullah Chattha says they will stage the sit-in for an indefinite period if their colleagues are not released.
He claims that two of the protesters were seriously injured in the baton charge and were admitted to a local hospital for treatment.
Justifying the protest, he says an increase of over Rs10 per litre in the petroleum products prices at a time when fertiliser is being sold at historically higher rate in the country, is tantamount to rubbing salt into wounds of the farming community.
He says a hike of Rs3.9 per unit in power bills, as announced by the government, will add Rs216 billion burden to the consumers, while per litre oil prices have crossed Rs160 mark.
He says the farmers have been ‘economically murdered’ by creating an artificial crisis of fertiliser and thus raising the prices of the compost at least twice for DAP (di-ammonium phosphate) bag and around Rs1,000 per bag for urea.
Mr Chattha warns that the national food security will be at stake if the government does not reverse its decisions and devise pro-farmers policies on an urgent basis.
Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq addressed the farmers in the evening and announced its party’s support for their cause.
The JI emir condemned the arrest of the farmers and warned the government to either address demands of the farmers or get ready to face them in front of the Punjab Assembly.
He said the government should abolish 17 per cent GST on agriculture inputs and bring down the electricity tariff for agriculture tube-wells at Rs5.35 per unit.
He also demanded a cut in the prices of fertilisers and an increase in support prices of wheat and cotton to Rs2,500 and Rs10,000 per 40kg, respectively.
He said the government must ensure availability of water to tail-end users.
Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2022