Farmers have been protesting in the capital since Wednesday to get their demands accepted as the third round of negotiation between the government and the protesters ended in stalemate. The Kissan Ittehad, which comprises farmers from across Punjab, has demanded the restoration of the previous tubewell electricity tariff of Rs5.3 per unit and the removal of taxes and adjustments among other things.

The demands put forth by the farmers are genuine and they have valid reasons to march considering how their crops have been inundated and the government’s inflated energy bills have left them in tatters. In addition to this, they are short on fertiliser and the support price for their cash crops falls short significantly. The situation is further compounded by the fact their tube-wells have been dysfunctional for a month and the power supply has been ruptured.

As far as the authorities are concerned, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has stated that a cabinet committee was working on the issue of reducing electricity bills for the agricultural tubewells and that a panel is expected to meet and discuss this issue on Monday. However, there are also reports that threatening language has been used by state authorities asking them to stay away from the Red Zone. This is unfortunate as farmers have a right to protest as much as any other citizen or political group in the country.

The impression at this point is that the farmers are being taken for granted by the state. It is imperative that the decision makers realise how this directly impacts Pakistan’s food security, as there is an evident drop in supply and demand of farm produce, and prices of essentials are skyrocketing. The country is on the verge of a food crisis as more than 80 districts are affected—with a million plus livestock killed and crops over 4.4 million acres destroyed due to the monsoon rains. The situation necessitates consideration and empathy on part of the state with immediate measures to aid the backbone community of the country’s economy.