Farm labor group seeks PM’s intervention in mass arrests in Punjab

By News Desk,

New Delhi: All India Agricultural Labour Association has sought Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s intervention in the mass arrests of dalit agricultural laborers in Mansa, Sangrur and Bathinda districts of Punjab. Since May 21, 2009, over 1300 agricultural laborers and labour leaders, including 511 women and 42 children, have been locked up in different jails in the state.

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“Almost all the activists and leaders of the Mazdoor Muktio Morcha and the CPI (ML) (Liberation) in Punjab have been jailed, and even the most peaceful protests and ordinary political activities by these groups are facing a crackdown. Some of the senior activists have been isolated from the others and confined along with hardened criminals and are being harassed within the jail. This includes Jasbir Kaur Nat, a National Council Member of the AIPWA, who is held in Naba jail, in violation of her rights as a political prisoner,” reads the letter to PM.

The arrests have happened in the course of a struggle for NREGA job cards and homestead plots promised by the SAD-BJP State Government. The SAD-BJP Government launched this offensive immediately following the Lok Sabha elections, where the results reflected the disenchantment of the rural poor with the government.

Giving the background of the recent incident, Radhika, spokesperson of All India Agricultural Labour Association, said: In 26 villages of Mansa district and 9 villages of Bhatinda and Sangrur districts of Punjab, struggle has been on by dalit, rural poor workers under the banner of Mazdoor Mukti Morcha and CPI-ML for jobs under NREGA and homestead land. The movement gained a momentum as the SAD–BJP government has backtracked its promise of providing housing sites to the poor. In the absence of any initiative by the government to implement its promise—and the presence of the Land Consolidation Act of 1961 which permits one-third of panchayat land to be leased out to agricultural workers for cultivation—the agricultural workers started living in hutments built on these land until such a time that the Government keeps its promise of allotting house plots.

“The Punjab government acting at the behest of upper caste landlords, who habitually occupy common land, has acted with vengeance on the dalit, rural poor who demanded to live in dignity,” she said.

The group has urged people to write to PM seeking his intervention to stop the crackdown on the poor farm laborers in the state. It has called people to sign the petition addressed to the Prime Minister by clicking on the following URL: