Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Monday again appealed to protesting farmers to lift their rail blockade saying being a farmer himself, he was ever ready to resolve any issue related to agriculture through mutual dialogue.
Badal said this while presiding over a meeting with the representatives of coordination committee of 18 farmer and farm labour unions here this evening.
He termed as "very unfortunate" and "agonizing" the inconvenience caused to various section of people particularly women, children, students, patients, elderly people and traders due to rail blockade.
Reiterating Akali-BJP government's resolve to accept every genuine demand of the farmers, the Chief Minister appealed the union leaders to lift the rail blockade which was causing huge harassment to general public besides causing a whopping economic loss to the nation.
He said the state government had already taken several steps for safeguarding the interests of farmers and would leave no stone unturned to bail out the distressed farmers.
Badal also said that he was ever ready to resolve any issue related to agriculture, being a farmer, through a mutual dialogue.
He said none except him could better under their problems and concerns with regard to agriculture, as he was well versed with them at grass-root level with over 60 years of experience in public life as well as a practicing farmer.
The Chief Minister gave a patient hearing to the union leaders and said issues or demands they have put forth before him and which were within the jurisdiction of the state government would be amicably resolved.
He, however, said the issues which were not within the ambit of the state government would be taken up with the Centre for their early resolution.
Badal said the Akali-BJP Government had always been a votary of the farmers and their rights, and taken appropriate steps to safeguard the interests of the farmers.
"Apart from taking these welfare measures for farming community we were fully conscious that agriculture was no longer a profitable venture," Badal said.
He claimed whenever farmers faced any problem or hardship, the Government wasted no time to come to their rescue which was evident from the bold initiatives taken by the Akali-BJP Government in providing free power to farmers since 2007.
"The Akali-BJP Government, since 2007 has provided free power to farmers worth Rs 28,000 crore otherwise their problems would have been accentuated manifold if they had to pay electricity bills of tube-wells from their own pocket," he said.
Badal pointed Rs 4,900 crore alone had been earmarked for
providing free power to keep tube-wells running in the current year, besides fulfilling its promise to provide eight hours of un-interrupted supply of electricity to the farmers.
He said another 1.25 lakh tube-wells would be given to the farmers during this year.
Badal also informed the Akali-BJP Government purchased additional power worth Rs 1,400 crore to overcome drought like conditions during the paddy season in 2014.
He pointed that the State Government realising the hardships faced by the farmers due to untimely rain during the harvest of wheat in 2015, ensured the lifting of every single grain of their produce.
Referring to issue of clearing outstanding sugarcane arrears due towards the sugar mills besides ensuring smooth running of sugar mills in efficient manner, Badal said, the nine sugar mills in the government sector had already made payment to the cane growers worth Rs 540 crore.
Likewise, seven private sugar mills have already released Rs 988 crore out of Rs 1,133 crore and the balance of Rs 135 crore would also be released soon.
Apart from this, the state government would ensure a timely payment of Rs 295 per quintal against Rs 220 fixed by the Centre to the cane growers during the crushing season of 2015-16.
The Punjab Government would be paying Rs.45 per quintal directly to the farmers as the sugar mills will pay only Rs.250 per quintal due to low sugar prices.
Similarly, the Government has already prevailed upon the owners of the Private Sugar Mills to start bounding in the larger interests of the cane growers.
The union leaders were also apprised that the government has also got arranged loan of Rs 200 crore from banks by giving state guarantee, which would be utilised by the private mill owners for clearing the cane arrears.