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Chandigarh: Of the nearly 700 deaths that have occurred during the farmers’ movement, more than 500 are of people who belong to Punjab. But most families of dead farmers are yet to get jobs from the Punjab government – even as celebrations erupt over the repeal of the laws.
As per data obtained from Punjab government’s department of revenue, which is sanctioning jobs, the government has handed appointment letters to the families of approximately 250 farmers so far.
Confirming the figure, V.K. Junjua, Special Chief Secretary-cum-Financial Commissioner of Revenue and Rehabilitation, told The Wire that the government has issued appointment letters based on recommendation by deputy commissioners at the district level.
The umbrella body of the Sanyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) has said that many families are still awaiting a government job. Junjua said the verification process must be continued at the level of deputy commissioners for the remaining cases.
“We issue appointment letters as and when verified cases reach us from DCs,” he added.
The jobs are being given based on qualification. If the candidate is a graduate, she is given group C clerical positions. If the candidate has not passed Class 12, she is given a group D post.
SKM data claims that nearly 550 farmers have already died from Punjab. This means that there are 300 potential families, who are yet to get jobs and financial security as promised by Congress government in Punjab.
The significance of this appears stark in light of the piece TheWire recently published, on a report that finds that the average land holding of farmers who died during protest was below three acres, which means that they all belonged to poor families and they had little resources left after the death of their main earner.
Economist Lakhwinder Singh on whose study this story was based told The Wire that those who died in the movement belonged to lowest rung of the farming hierarchy. Poor farmers who died in the protest have left behind destitute families, many of whom are in debt. Government support in Punjab has thus been largely inadequate.
Singh said that the contribution of the farmers who died during the protest is huge and it is important that their families are adequately taken care of.
The protestors, he said, had to withstand severe cold when the movement was launched towards the end of last year. Later, the scorching heat of the Delhi summer was equally unbearable for those living in temporary shelters outside Delhi, he added.
Apart from Punjab government, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, a body managing Sikh gurdwaras, also announced a Rs 1 lakh support to families who died during the protests.
But monetary help from SGPC, too, has not reached to the families of all farmers, if the SKM list is to be considered.
Till last month, SGPC had paid Rs 1 lakh to over 200 farmers families.
Long wait for families
Jagseer Sidhu, 30, a resident of Gurma village in Barnala district, had never thought that his father, Sukhdev Singh would pass away at 65. It left him and his mother in the lurch.
Jagseer said that a few days after returning from Tikri, Sukhdev had participated in a local protest outside the house of a BJP leader in Barnala on December 28, 2020.
Soon after he ended his speech, he collapsed on the stage. He was declared dead when taken to hospital, said Jagseer.
“Almost a year is gone but I am waiting for the state government job,” Jagseer told The Wire.
He said the local administration last intimated him about two months ago that the process to allot him a government job “is under consideration”. Jagseer has long since forwarded relevant documents, but there has been no update so far.
Kaka Singh, local convenor of Punjab Keth Mazdoor Union from Sri Muktsar Sahib told The Wire that in his village Khunde Halal, in the Muktasar Sahib Tehsil, five farmers including two landless farmers died during protest. But families of none of these farmers have got government jobs.
He said that the claims of the state government and its actual method of working is very different. “Punjab government has been announcing a lot of populist moves in order to entice voters but who is checking whether these announcements are being properly implemented?” he asked.
Manjit Singh who is the BKU Ekta-Ugrahan in-charge of Patiala district said that three weeks ago, their delegation met the Patiala deputy commissioner and submitted a list of farmers’ families who were still waiting for government jobs.
The DC then passed instructions to the junior officers, Manjit said, but there has been no update since.
Manjit added that procedure itself has been delaying the award of government jobs. “The police verification and administration approval has been consuming lot of time. This needs to be sped up,” he said.
He said there are many families which are struggling to live properly and facing dire financial constraints after losing their dear ones in the protests.
“All must get jobs at the earliest,” he added.
Bhupinder Kaur from Punjab’s Mohali lost her husband Deep Singh last year. He was 60 and was returning to his village when he met with a road accident and succumbed to his injuries. Kaur said that the Delhi protest had left her in permanent sorrow and pain.
“I don’t know how to live without him now. There is no support system left. My only daughter is married. My husband was the one looking after me and my ailing mother-in-law. Now that he is gone, we feel as if we are orphaned now,” she said.
Bhupinder owns no more than one acre of land and is in dire straits. “There was assurance of remuneration but no financial help has come so far,” he said.
Meanwhile Harinder Singh, who is a member of SKM, told The Wire that SKM leaders had a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Charanjeet Singh Channi in Chandigarh on November 17. During the meeting, a fresh list of farmers who died during the protests was submitted to the chief minister with an appeal that their families should be getting jobs at the earliest.
Meanwhile, Channi on Wednesday announced the cancellation of various FIRs registered against protesting farmers.
SKM leaders told the chief minister that dozens of FIRs have been registered against them in Punjab and Chandigarh.
The chief minister told the farmer leaders that he would personally take up the matter with the Punjab governor, who is also the administrator of the Union Territory of Chandigarh.