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Massive protest in Shimla by apple growers, ryots over GST imposition

shimla: Flexing their muscles against the incumbent BJP government, hundreds of farmers and fruit growers took it to be streets in the capital, outside the state government secretariat to protest against the imposition of GST on the apple cartons and ignoring the issues of the farmers.

Under the banner of Samyukta Kisan Manch, an action group of 27 farmers and apple producers bodies, the activists tried to gherao the secretariat as they also clashed with the police when they tried to break the security cordon and steel barricading near the secretariat.

This is the first big demonstration of the growers in Shimla town after the state government having already held talks with Samyukta Kisan Manch representatives at the behest of the Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur. A large number of women from the apple growing belt of Theog, Jubbal-Kotkhai, Rohru and Chopal also participated in the protest march and raised slogans against the state government.

During this, a large number of police forces were deployed to maintain peace. Director General of Police Sanjay Kundu monitored the deployments and advised the police not to resort to any provocative action as the growers had also promised to remain peaceful.

Learning lessons from 1990 apple agitation, the police had put up barricades at three levels near Sanjauli bus stop in Chhota Shimla to prevent the farmers from reaching the secretariat. However, the protesters tried to jump the steel barricades and a few of them even climbed up after which there was a scuffle with the police. However, on the persuasion of the leaders of the Samyukta Kisan Manch, the youth activists calmed down.

Harish Chauhan and Sanjay Chauhan, convenor and co-convenor respectively of SKM said in their address that the government was making the mistake of taking farmers lightly. They claimed that imposition of GST, which now stands withdrawn, besides hike in the price of the apple trays and packing materials, has made the apple industry highly inviable. "This is just the beginning, if the demands are not accepted, the fight for rights will be fought till the assembly elections" CPM MLA Rakesh Singha declared.

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