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Rail Roko’ protest: 250 cane growers released from custody

After a meeting held between the district administration and agitating sugarcane growers here last night, more than 250 farmers and union leaders, who were rounded up or detained from various parts of the district for taking part in the ‘Rail Roko’ protest at Dhuri on December 27, were released from police stations.

Besides, the district administration has fixed a meeting between Punjab Agriculture Minister Gurmeet Singh Khudian and the agitating cane growers/farmer union leaders at Chandigarh on January 3 to discuss issues, including the non-purchase of sugarcane by Bhagwanpura Sugar Mill in Dhuri from the growers of the area.

The demands of the agitating farmers also include the operation in the mill to be resumed and the release of pending payments of around Rs 14 crore to the farmers by the mill.

Deputy Commissioner, ADC (D), SSP, Dhuri SDM and others were present in the meeting to represent the administrative side, while Ganna Kashatkar Sanghrash Committee convenor Harjit Singh Bugra, and BKU (Azad) leaders Jaswinder Singh Longowal and Dilbag Singh Harigarh represented the farmers.

Following the meeting, the farmers also unloaded around 20 trolleys carrying sugarcane produce that were parked outside the sugar mill for two-three days.

Talking to The Tribune, Longowal said they have asked the district administration to ensure that the services of the employees be continued even if the mill owner decides to discontinue the operations in the mill.

Longowal further said if the operation in the mill does not resume, the cane crop would not survive in the area, thus hitting the state government’s diversification policy. In the upcoming meeting on January 3, Agriculture Minister and leaders of Ganna Kashtkar Sanghrash Committee, BKU (Azad), BKU (Qadian) and Kirti Kisan Union would also be present, he added.

Longowal said the police had arrested around 350 farmers to prevent the ‘Rail Roko’ protest on December 27. He said some union leaders were also held from their house on the same morning.

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