LAHORE – In what can be described as a first organised move by Punjab farmers to unite at a single platform, thousands of agriculturists are gathering in a village about 20km east of Jhang on Sunday (today) to place their demands before the government, sources in the remote district told TheNation.

Perturbed over inflated electricity bills with Fuel Adjustment Charges (FAC) despite the fact that there is virtually no electricity in the area for 20 hours, the farmers want total exemption of FAC from bills besides a proper load shedding schedule for the area. They have already refused to pay the electricity bills to Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (FESCO).

“Despite threats from FESCO officials that their electricity supply would be disconnected permanently, if they made any agitation, they are firm in their resolve and mentally prepared to block Jhang Faisalbad, Jhang Chinot, Jhang Bhakar, Jhang Tobe Tek Sing and Jhang Gojra Roads to press for their demands”, a lawyer attending Sunday’s event told this scribe on the phone. Local politicians of the district and Jhang Bar Association have also announced their total support to the farmers and are joining the gathering on Sunday. It would be a unique meeting in the sense that the farmers have themselves made all the arrangements of the session without the support of any political party, said the lawyer. It has been learnt that former MNA and brother of sitting Minister Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat, Makhdoon Asad Hayat, PTI leader and former MNA Amanullah Sial, Abul Hassan Ansari, MPA Khalid Sargana, Jhang Bar Association President Ghulam Farid Naul and former MNA from Gojra Amjad Warriach are attending the moot.

MNA of the same constituency Ghulam Bibi Bharwana first confirmed and later refused to attend the session due to ‘some reservation’. PPP MNA Pir Anayat Shah and MPA Hassan Murtaza have also been invited to attend the gathering. “Hit by thousands of rupees additional bills with the inclusion of Fuel Adjustment Charges (FAC) and over 18 to 20 hours load shedding, the farmers of Jhang lost all hope and now they are gathering in Chack232 Naul, a village 20km from Jhang, to press the government to solve their problems. They also plan to block all roads leading to other cities from Jhang,” said a politician who is attending today’s gathering to express solidarity with farmers’ community. It merits mentioning here that plight of Punjab farmers has reached an alarming level due to severe shortages of water in canals and permanent load shedding at agriculture feeders in limits of all the power distribution companies (DISCOs). Due to non-availability of water and electricity, growers had to suffer a loss of Rs20, 000 to Rs30, 000 per acre due to low yield of sugarcane crop. And of late, when they needed final watering for wheat crop, the canals went dry and the tube-wells lost their utility in the absence of electricity. The rural areas from Attock to Sadiqabad are under the grip of 16 to 18 hours average power shutdown.

An official of Multan Electric Power Company while talking to this scriber on the phone confirmed that it was conducting an average 18-hour load shedding in its rural limits. Reports coming from other districts depict a similar predicament.