Protesting farmers take bath at a water tanker provided by a welfare trust on Jinnah Avenue while others receive rice cooked by their fellow villagers on Faisal Avenue in Islamabad on Friday. — White Star
Protesting farmers take bath at a water tanker provided by a welfare trust on Jinnah Avenue while others receive rice cooked by their fellow villagers on Faisal Avenue in Islamabad on Friday. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: Exhausted yet determined protesting farmers say they will not call off their strike until the government fulfills their demands, as high inflation coupled with exorbitant electricity bills have made their lives miserable.

Camped at the junction of Faisal Avenue and Jinnah Avenue in Blue Area, thousands of farmers, mainly from central Punjab have been protesting against the federal government for the last four days, demanding relief in electricity bills and prices of fertilisers and seeds.

Protesters, who had gathered under the umbrella of Kissan Ittehad, have no proper facility of washrooms or food supplies and have come all the way to Islamabad to exert pressure on the federal government in giving them relief otherwise they would no longer be able to cultivate crops.

They have been using washrooms of nearby markets while the event organiser has provided them some food. However, some of them said they also go to hotels in Blue Area, G-8 and Sitara Market to have meals.

“We are here to call out the massive injustice. This government purchased wheat, corn and maize against low prices from us, but now, we are being provided the same against exorbitant rates. Similarly, we are paying too much for electricity. Under these circumstances, how can we run tubewells and how can we sow,” said Alamdin, who came all the way from Sahiwal.

Another protester, Mohammad Ajmal who came from Vehari, said during the last few months, the electricity tariff for tubewells saw a massive increase, besides new taxes and so-called adjustments in bills. Similarly, he said prices of fertilisers and urea were increased.

Protesters said they reached Islamabad without the support of any political party, adding that only Kissan Ittehad, which is apolitical, is supporting them. However, they said it was not possible for their leadership to provide adequate food to everyone. Meanwhile, it was also noted that many protesters cook their food on their own using a cylinder or wood.

Whereas, a trust has provided water facility to protesters while it was also noted that protesters take rest in buses, which are parked near the protest venue. Particularly, during the night, a significant number of protesters take rest in buses to avoid the cold and mosquitoes.

Since the farmers came from various parts of Punjab, they sit in various groups to chat about different issues. Few were also seen singing traditional songs.

To a query, farmers said that their leadership Khalid Hussain and others were in touch with the government but so far, the government is paying no heed towards their genuine demands.

“We are here, not to go back empty handed. We will not call off strike until all our demands are met,” said Waleed Ahmed.

A heavy contingent of police has been deployed in the area to prevent the farmers from moving towards D-Chowk.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2022

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