BELAGAVI: A massive protest staged by farmers brought Belagavi city to a virtual standstill on Tuesday as thousands of vehicles got stranded in the traffic jam that took more than two hours for the police to clear.
Upset over government's conditional waiver of their loans, thousands of farmers thronged Chennamma Circle, city's traffic artery today afternoon and staged a dharna before heading to the office of Deputy Commissioner to submit a memorandum.
Vehicular traffic on roads leading to Chennamma Circle, Bogarves Circle, RTO Circle, Kolhapur Circle and Club Road from different parts of the city was caught in the worst traffic jam witnessed in the city in the recent times.
A small team of police personnel deployed at Chennamma Circle had a tough time diverting vehicles through different routes even as people were struggling to squeeze through adjacent narrow lanes to wriggle out of the choking congestion.
Several ambulances from private and government hospitals also were caught in the chaos even as police officials struggled to clear traffic for them. People at several places were seen quarrelling with police personnel blaming them for the mess.
At Kaliamrai locality where hundreds of vehicles were trying to snake through a narrow lane to avoid getting choked in the jam, many vehicles were involved minor accidents.
Belagavi Police Commissioner, D C Rajappa was caught in the traffic too near Chennamma Circle on his way home for lunch from his office. Speaking to TNIE, he said, "It was difficult persuading farmers to withdraw their agitation at Chennamma Circle. We have to deal very calmly with the agitating farmers who are raising their demands. The traffic jam prolonged as it took sometime for Additional District Magistrate to reach the spot to receive their memorandum. Thousands of vehicles have been diverted through alternative routes in the process to bring the situation under control."
Traffic CPI, R R Patil, who was doing his best to clear the traffic said, there was no way out for his officers to avoid traffic congestion as agitators staged dharna right in the middle of Chennamma Circle. All the possible alternative routes were explored and utilised by the police to fight the problem, he said.
After two hours of their dharna, the agitating farmers rallied upto DC's office and submitted a memorandum urging the government to fulfill their demands.
They mainly demanded waiver of all kinds of loans availed by farmers from banks and different financial institutions including cooperative banks and other private banks. The farmers wanted the government not to fix a specific slab for waiver of loans and said, any amount of loan availed by them should be written off.
A majority of farmers were sugarcane growers, who demanded a suitable price for cane by all sugar factories in the state. Accusing the government of coming under pressure from the lobby of sugar factories, they said, the government should issue orders to all factories asking them to pay at par with sugar factories of Maharashtra, where a minimum of Rs 3000 was being paid for each tonne of cane by all sugar factories. Back in the state, most of the sugar factories paid not more than Rs 2000 per tonne of cane.
Releasing a detailed report on total pending dues of sugar factories, the cane growers said, many farmers were facing a severe financial crisis over not getting their dues from the factories. "We have supplied sugarcane in large quantities to factories on time and ensured that the cane was crushed on time. Unfortunately, many factories are not ready to settle the bills even after getting cane from us on time. The government's continued soft approach towards factories landed most of the cane growers in crisis,'' they bemoaned.
Several noted farmer leaders were heading the agitation including Ashok Yamakanmardi, Chonappa Pujari, Ravi Siddannavar, Mallikarjun Ramdurg, Mahadev Madiwal and Jayashree Kurannavar.