ISLAMABAD: Farmers from different areas of the country on Friday staged a protest demonstration against the government over its “failure to rehabilitate people from the flood-hit areas.”
Carrying banners and placards inscribed with their demands, the farmers gathered in front of the National Press Club and asked the government to provide interest-free loans, seeds and fertilizers of high quality and make the distribution of Watan cards transparent.
More than 300 male and female farmers hailing from the flood-affected areas participated in the protest under the banners of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) and Sustainable Agriculture Action Group (SAAG). President PKI Tariq Mehmood led the procession.
Farmers were of the view that almost five months had passed since the floods but government had not taken any practical steps for the betterment of people from the areas.
Speaking at the occasion, Mehmood expressed serious concerns over the government’s “lack of attention.”
He further said that women farmers should be made an integral part of the long term rehabilitation programme by making them responsible for its preparation, implementation and monitoring. The farmers also demanded the government to computerise the land record in flood affected areas to avoid any conflict between famers and landlords.
The protestors said the government should ensure provision of livestock and poultry and exempt them of Reformed General Sale Tax.
Talking to The Express Tribune Food and Agriculture Advisor for ActionAid Aftab Alam Khan said, “As many as 1.6 million farmers were affected in the country but there is no platform for them to voice their concerns.”
He suggested that there should be a long term plan to rehabilitate the farmers.
Noor Muhammad Baloch, a farmer representing the province of Balochistan, said that already they had been served with notices to pay back previous loans. “All loans should be waived off and new interest free loans should be given to us to facilitate agriculture rehabilitation,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2011.