Police officials detain SAD leader Bikram Majithia from outside Finance Minister Manpreet Badal’s residence, in Chandigarh on Friday. (Express Photo)
AFTER AKALI legislators led by former minister Bikram Singh Majithia were detained outside the residence of Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal Friday after a protest as families of farm suicide victims sat holding photos of the deceased, some of the family members claimed they were “brought” to Chandigarh on the promise that the government would give them financial assistance of Rs 2 lakh each.
Family members of five suicide victims from Payal constituency told The Indian Express they were not told about the dharna. They claimed they were told they would be made to submit “forms” and Majithia would take them to Vidhan Sabha and ensure they are given Rs 2 lakh each besides a government job.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Majithia said, “This is a blatant lie. I will get the matter looked into.” Later in the evening, he said, “I got it checked. There is no such thing. Even then I will get to the bottom of this.”
After he was let off by police, Majithia held a press conference at the party office in Sector 28 where he said, “The families (of farm suicide victims) had reached before us. For the past many days, they had been approaching us.” Majithia said the families had also tried to meet AAP MLAs many times.
Majithia said Akali MLAs only went there to request the Finance Minister to meet them. He said they requested an officer to tell the FM that families of suicide vistims wanted to meet him. “Ten minutes later, another officer came and said the finance minister has refused a meeting,” he added.
Kashmira Singh, a resident of Barmala village in Payal constituency, said a resident of Dudhal village had approached him a week ago and said that they will be taken to Chandigarh where Majithia would raise their issue in Vidhan Sabha to get them financial assistance of Rs 2 lakh and a government job for a family member. Kashmira Singh said his brother Santokh Singh, 65, had committed suicide on April 22, 2018, over debt of Rs 8 lakh from a bank and a cooperative society. Kashmira Singh said he was not told about any dharna.
Surjit Singh, a resident of Dudhal who lost his 22-year-old son Kamalpreet to suicide on June 10, 2019, said, “We were told we will be taken to Vidhan Sabha. But what happened today makes us feel insulted.” Surjit’s son Kamalpreet had hanged himself. Surjit said he once owned around three acres of land which he had to sell off to repay his debt. He said he had to spend money on the education of two daughters as well. “I had to take a loan of Rs 8 lakh against home also. Kamalpreet had done 10+2 in non-medical and a flight attendant course,” he added.
A resident of Chankoyian Khurd, Parminder Singh, who said his grandfather Joginder Singh consumed celphos and died on March 7, 2018, said he was also promised that the issue of already paid loan and pending loan would be taken up. Parminder said that to settle a limit of Rs 5.5 lakh, the family had to sell a chunk of land. He said his father Malkiat Singh had also committed suicide 7-8 years ago.
Kartarpur resident Manga Singh said, “I was told that a meeting will be arranged with Majithia sahib who will take up our issues in Vidhan Sabha.” Manga Singh said his father Gurmail Singh, 67, committed suicide on February 24, 2019, by consuming insecticide. He said there was a debt of Rs 24 to Rs 25 lakh, out of which over Rs 10 lakh debt still remained as family sold some land to settle debt of one bank.
A woman from Ramgarh Sardaaran said, “They brought us here by telling a lie.” She said her grandson Manjot Singh was undergoing treatment for kaala peeliya (Hepatitis C) at a hospital in Ahmedgarh. “I was to get him discharged today as his 10+2 exams begin from March 3,” she added.
The woman lost her 41-year-old son Jaspal Singh Cheema to suicide in February 2018. She said there was initially a loan of Rs 4.5 lakh which increased to Rs 7 lakh. “My son returned the loan by taking money on interest. But as the debt continued to rise, he committed suicide,” said the woman. Her son, she said, was survived by wife and two children.
High drama occurred outside the residence of Manpreet Badal earlier in the day as Akali legislators gheraoed the residence and started raising slogans. Chandigarh Police first parked a vehicle which had a sticker that mentioned Section 144 of CrPC (unlawful assembly) and stated that the protestors should disperse by 10-15 minutes. When the protest continued, an announcement was made from a public address system asking the protestors to disperse. When they still did not do so, police dragged away Akali MLAs and forced them on a bus. Majithia was taken in a separate vehicle to Sector 17 police station, while the other legislators were taken to Sector 3 police station.
A Chandigarh police officer said Z-security personnel deployed with Majithia tried to obstruct police from taking him away. All legislators were let off after the Budget session was over.
During the press conference, Majithia said it was a “black day in history of Vidhan Sabha”, adding that the “Congress government at the behest of Manpreet Badal indulged in goondaism”.
Alleging “police high handedness”, Majithia said that a 10-year-old child, an 80-year-old and a differently-abled person who were family members of suicide victims were brutally handled by police. He said that apart from Chandigarh police, Punjab cops were also present.