Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) President Sukhbir Singh Badal as well as the top SAD leadership was detained here today while marching to the chief minister’s residence in Chandigarh to protest against the extremely low awards being given to farmers to acquire their lands for various road projects under the Bharat Mala project.Earlier thousands of party workers congregated at Gurdwara Amb Sahib here from where they started the march to the chief minister’s residence on tractors as well as on foot. The Protest March was stopped near the border with Chandigarh where SAD workers along with leaders of the Road Sangharsh Committee, which has been spearheading the agitation for fair compensation to farmers, held a dharna before courting arrest.Speaking on the occasion, the SAD President said the Congress government had stonewalled the demand for fair compensation of more than two lakh farmers whose land comprising 25,000 acres was being acquired across nineteen districts in the State. He said farmers were being short changed by the Congress government which was giving them awards ranging from Rs 30 lakh to Rs 70 lakh per acre for rural and urban land respectively when they should be getting awards of Rs two crore to Rs three crore per acre.Mr Badal said besides acquisition of 25,000 acres, as much as 75,000 acres were rendered useless being small pockets which were left without access and irrigation facilities. He also disclosed that more than 3,000 houses would be demolished and villages would lose 100 village ponds. He said one crore trees would be felled under the project and hundreds of factories, shellers, poultry farms, brick kilns and dairy farms would be uprooted. He said farmers would also lose water sources and tubewells, stating the erstwhile SAD led government had not only given fair compensation of crores per acre to farmers but also given them a free tubwell as well as facility to get further registry of land done free of cost. He assured farmers a fair compensation once the SAD forms a government in the State.
Speaking about the current political situation in Punjab, Mr Sukhbir Badal said “no one seems to be interested in the people or their problems. What we are witnessing in the Congress party is a fight for the top post. One person wanted to be chief minister but another got the post. One leader wanted the chief minister to be his puppet but when the latter did not oblige he submitted his resignation. Punjab cannot be run like this. This is a border state. We need a leader who can act like a unifying factor. A person who can ensure peace and communal harmony. Sadly what we are seeing right now is open loot”.Mr Sukhbir Badal also spoke about the contradictions in the Charanjit Singh Channi government. He said the new chief minister had announced that anyone linked with mafias should not come to him but had chosen tainted persons including a legislator who was accused of rape as well as another who had been named in a murder case by a Faridkot based family.Speaking on the occasion, senior leader Prof Prem Singh Chandumajra said it was unfortunate that the road projects coming up under the Bharat Mala project were aimed at facilitating freight movement of corporates by cutting distances between major cities but aimed against farmers whose land was being acquired for peanuts. Senior leader Bikram Singh Majithia demanded the present acquisition process should be stopped and that it should be restarted after following norms to ensure land was acquired only between Rs two crore to Rs three crore per acre. He said as much as Rs 75,000 crore could come into the State’s economy if farmers received a fair value for their land. Mr N K Sharma assured farmers that the SAD would ensure justice was done unto them. Sangharsh Committee members Harmanpreet Singh and Gurdial Singh also spoke on the occasion. Senior SAD leaders present on the occasion included Dr Daljit Cheema, Hira Singh Gabria, Surjit Singh Rakhra, Baldev Singh Mann, Iabal Singh Jhundan, Ranjit Singh Gill, Jagdeep Cheema, Gurpreeet Rajukhanna, Harinder Chandumajra, Parambans Romana and Robin Brar.