Bhagwant Mann was away in Gujarat, campaigning for the Aam Aadmi Party ahead of the state legislative assembly elections
A large number of farmers and workers protested outside Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s residence in Sangrur November 30, 2022 over issues such as the country’s flagship employment guarantee programme and ownership of commons lands.
Around 10,000 people from all districts of Punjab participated in the protest under the banner of Sanjha Mazdoor Morcha, a joint front consisting of eight labour unions. The protestors were bayonet-charged by the state police and engaged in scuffles with them.
The chief minister was away in Gujarat, campaigning for the Aam Aadmi Party ahead of the state legislative assembly elections.
Mukesh Malodh, leader of the Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Committee, which is part of the Morcha, told Down to Earth that the protesting farmers and workers gathered on the Patiala bypass, about half a kilometre from the CM’s residence at 2.30 pm.
From here, the protesters marched towards the residence located in Dreamland Colony. Police forces from four districts were deployed outside the residence to stop the protesters, with a lot of barricades in place.
Clashes and scuffles broke out between the police and the protesters as soon as the latter reached the residence. Police used batons and pushed them back.
Many male protesters’ turbans fell, women’s shawls were pulled and many people suffered injuries. The angry protesters then sat on the road and started shouting slogans against the government.
Malodh said the authorities then asked for half an hour’s time. They finally issued a letter saying that a meeting of farmers and workers had been fixed with the chief minister at 11 pm December 21. Malodh said the protesters called off their protest after this.
However, Malodh said Mann has promised to meet farmers and workers several times in the past as well but has never fulfilled his promises.
He added that a massive agitation will be launched against the government if Mann evades this time as well. “The mask of change that the government wore has come down. There is no difference between the previous and the present government,” Malodh said.
Farmers and workers have been demanding employment throughout the year under the Mahatma Gandhi national Rural Employment Guarantee Act and that the minimum wage should be fixed at Rs 700.
They also want a third of village commons land (Shamlat) to be given to the Dalit community at a lower rate. Dummy bids for Shamlat should be rejected and this problem should be solved permanently, the agitating groups have said.
An important demand of landless Dalit labourers is that the needy should be given a plot of 10 marlas (0.0252 hectares) each and a grant of Rs 5 lakh to build houses.
The demands also include immediate possession of already parcelled plots and action against villages whose Panchayats have passed proposals for such plots but have not implemented them so far.
There are about 30 such demands of the workers. Malodh said the government has already accepted several demands. But no steps have been taken so far towards implementing them. This attitude of the government will no longer work, he added.
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