AGRICULTURE TRIBUNE Monday, December 17, 2001, Chandigarh, India
  Aftermath of free power bonanza to Punjab farmers
G. S. Dhillon

O
N December 22, 1996, at a Congress rally held at Ludhiana, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, the then Chief Minister of Punjab, announced an action plan package costing Rs 600 crore, which included grant of free electricity to farmers holding land less than seven acres for operation their tubewells.
  • Aftermath of the grant of bonanza
  • Satisfaction of farming community
  • Grumbling of the domestic consumer section
  • Dissatisfaction among the industrial sector
  • Crusade against misuse of free power facility
  • Fiscal health of PSEB and government affected
  • Message

Producing citrus fruits since 1952
Raj Sadosh

P
RIME Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was very keen to visit Layalpur Fruit Farm located on the Abohar-Sri Ganganagar road (NH-15) but on his way he received information about the death of the President Rajindra Parsad and rushed back to New Delhi after addressing a rally at Nehru Park, Sri Ganganagar. He, however, later honoured Mr Kartar Singh Narula with the Udyan Pandit award at Trimurti Bhavan for growing the best quality of citrus fruit. Earlier, Mrs Indira Gandhi was taken round the farms by Chief Minister Mohan Lal Sukhadia. She was highly impressed with the labour put in by the family.

Farm operations for December


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Aftermath of free power bonanza to Punjab farmers
G. S. Dhillon

ON December 22, 1996, at a Congress rally held at Ludhiana, Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, the then Chief Minister of Punjab, announced an action plan package costing Rs 600 crore, which included grant of free electricity to farmers holding land less than seven acres for operation their tubewells.

Mr A.S. Chatha, the then Chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board, processed the case promptly and got it through the board. But then the next elections came to be announced and application of the scheme got deferred.

But the move proved to be “jinxed” both for Mrs Bhattal and Mr Chatha, the former lost the elections and the latter his post as the PSEB Chairman.

Mr Parkash Singh Badal, after over 18 years of political wilderness, made a comeback as the Chief Minister. The first announcement, known as “the big bang” said that the limit of seven acres for grant of free electricity would not be applicable and all the farmers, big or small, would enjoy the concession of “free electricity” for their tubewells.

This move benefited some 6.84 lakh farmers who owned tubewells operated electrically, but some 1.76 lakh farmers who owned diesel-operated tubewells were left high and dry.

The average annual charges paid by the tubewell owners were Rs 2932.58 and so the total benefit or bonanza amounted to Rs 192.96 crore at the time of sanction of the concession in February, 1997. But this triggered a big demand for new tubewell connections. Some 43,000 pending applications were cleared without much delay. An additional 5,000 connections were granted on emergency basis to the farmers of Malout-Muktsar, the waterlogging-prone area, to switch over to paddy cultivation from cotton. The demand kept growing and the list of those utilising tubewells burgeoned. It is not currently known how much is the tubewells burgeoned. It is not currently known how much is the extent of loss suffered by the PSEB on account of free electricity supplied.

The latest statement by the Chief Minister puts the amount of payment of cross-subsidy to the PSEB on account of the loss at Rs 300 crore instead of earlier assessment of about Rs 200 crore.

Aftermath of the grant of bonanza

This concession has had a run of full five years now so it is the right time to assess the situation obtained just before the forthcoming elections due in February, 2002.

Satisfaction of farming community

While trying to please some 6.84 lakh farmers owning power-operated tubewells, the Badal government annoyed some 1.76 lakh farmers who could not get electricity connections for their tubewells and operated them using diesel engines. With an increase in the cost of diesel, the extent of discontent among this section of farmers has become “louder”.

Grumbling of the domestic consumer section

For every unannounced cut of power, the blame was placed squarely on the free electricity concessions. This section also felt that the load of Rs 300 would somehow be passed on to them by increasing their tariff.

Dissatisfaction among the industrial sector

This section feared that their tariff would be increased sooner or later. It may be recalled that in 1996 there was a move for raising their tariff which was got cancelled due to an agitation and struggle waged by the industrial sector.

This section of consumers to put their views on the grant of free electricity for tubewells, invited Mr Badal to a meet organised by the CII (NR) soon after his taking over as Chief Minister. A detailed memorandom put up before him listed out the various drawbacks of granting free electricity as this would discourage saving and conservation of the scarce groundwater resource which was registering a severe decline in several parts of Punjab. It was made out that the concession now granted does not spread the benefit to all the sections of the farming community, it would be better if a bonus is granted on every quintal of foodgrain produced and its amount with the foodgrain production exceeding two crore tonnes annually would be Rs 2 quintal.

But Mr Badal did not like the idea of a bonus, and as regards the decline of water-table, he observed that the water-table had been falling previously also and it does not matter how much more will drop during next five years.

At that time the words of Ms Talveen Singh who writes for a magazine, are quoted below:

“India’s tragedy is that we continue to elect Chief Ministers who believe that short-term populist measures are more important than doing real good to the state they rule. So even as we watch Andhra Pradesh’s collapse on account of idiotic policies of its government, we have Parkash Singh Badal, take almost the same route in Punjab. No sooner was he back in power than he announced that farmers would not need to pay for electricity they use in tubewells and that canal water would also be free.”

Ms Talveen Singh observed that on account of remaining in the political wilderness. Mr Badal had forgotten the well-known maxim that rampant populism breeds poverty.

It may be pointed out that the grant of free electricity for the tubewells led to increase in the area under paddy which was quite opposed to the declared policy of diversification. With the area under paddy of 22 lakh hectares and water demand of paddy of 1500 mm, the total water consumed for growing paddy in Punjab amounted to some 25 to 27 MAF and it was nearly five times the water stored in the Bhakra Dam. This resulted not only in the fall in the level of ground-water, forcing the farmers to go in for costly submersible pumps instead of centrifugal pumps used before, and also a fall in quality of water leading to marginally safe waters.

Crusade against misuse of free power facility

To counter the reports published in the media of the alleged misuse of facility of free electricity for pumping irrigation water, the PSEB launched a crusade against the misuse, if any. Mr Bikramajit Singh, the then Chairman, PSEB, told the media on April 24, 1998, at Lehra Mohabat that if any farmer was found guilty of misuse of free electricity, he would be strongly penalised. He observed that the free power supply to the farmers did not mean that they got a licence to misuse it.

Fiscal health of PSEB and government affected

The losses of the PSEB amounted to some Rs 945.6 crore in 1994-95 and rose to Rs 1049.8 crore in 1995-96. With the supply of free electricity the losses are bound to get increased by Rs 300 crore or so. The schemes prepared for improvement and upgrading its infrastructure with the World Bank assistance got shelved as the condition of the minimum rate of tariff to be charged from the agriculture sector of 50 paises per unit got violated by the bonanza of free electricity granted. So the hope of sustainable development taking place in the PSEB went haywire.

As regards the Punjab Government’s fiscal health, it can be judged that the Punjab Government uses 65 per cent of its revenue for payment of salaries and the balance 35 per cent for repayment of loans. There is hardly any money left for taking up the development works.

The Punjab Government defends its action that it has launched a programme of “Liberalisation”. Liberalisation is supposed to shift the government’s focus from the commanding heights to tasks which the government alone could do, but liberalisation through bankruptcy means that the state is not shifting its focus, but simply going bust, and that is exactly what is going to happen in the case of Punjab, feel financial experts.

Message

Punjab is in dire need of a person coming forward to act as its saviour and for that the newly set up Electricity Tariff Regulatory Commission should take up the case and give a hearing to different sections of consumers and decide the tariff for the different consumers, including the agricultural sector.

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Producing citrus fruits since 1952
Raj Sadosh

PRIME Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was very keen to visit Layalpur Fruit Farm located on the Abohar-Sri Ganganagar road (NH-15) but on his way he received information about the death of the President Rajindra Parsad and rushed back to New Delhi after addressing a rally at Nehru Park, Sri Ganganagar. He, however, later honoured Mr Kartar Singh Narula with the Udyan Pandit award at Trimurti Bhavan for growing the best quality of citrus fruit. Earlier, Mrs Indira Gandhi was taken round the farms by Chief Minister Mohan Lal Sukhadia. She was highly impressed with the labour put in by the family.

Born in 1922 at Lyallpur, Mr Narula remembers each and every important moment of his life and narrates extempore. After doing FA from Khalsa College, Lyallpur, he had come to Sri Ganganagar in 1939-40 where the family had purchased desert land from Justice Sir Shadi Lal of the Punjab High Court and others Rs 8,250 per murabba. High sandy heaps were to be levelled, little quantity of canal water was available for irrigation. Karat Singh, upon his marriage in 1945, decided to have proper education in agriculture. He completed one-year vernacular course from the Government College of Agriculture, Lyallpur on May 4, 1946, and still proudly possess the certificate signed by Rai Bahadur Jai Chand Luthra. The beautifully written exercise book in Urdu by Mr Narula had been renovated by a Simla-based society, Nishant, with the efforts of Mrs Prem Suri, wife of late Gen R.K. Suri. The book contains formulae to save crops from pests at much cheaper cost than the prevailing insecticides now.

The family started fruit plantation in 1952 with citrus. After four years, Mr Kartar Singh Narula visited Gajsinghpur, brought some good varieties of mango, dried the same, dipped the seed in “lassi” and planted it using his theoretical experience gained as an agriculture student. He was the first to grow mangoes in the region. Later he visited Bareilly and Merrut, brought mango tree buds and planted other varieties. The nursery was established in 1958.

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru brought four plants of kinnow from Pakistan in 1962. Two plants were put at Pusa Institute, New Delhi, two at botanical garden, Lucknow. Mr Narula succeeded in collecting some buds of these plants in 1963 with the help of a close relation of Panditji during his visit to Trimurti Bhavan in connection with a national citrus show organised with the efforts of Chief Minister Mohan Lal Sukhadia. Mr Narula’s fruits were adjudged the best. Kinnow plants started giving fruits in 1966 at the Lyallpur Farm, the same was adjudged the best at fruit show held at Abohar. Dr M.S. Randhawa, Vice-Chancellor, Punjab Agricultural University, visited Narula’s farm.

Mr Kartar Singh Narula was honoured with a certificate of merit and a cash prize of Rs 500 for excellence in fruit growing at the Independence Day function in 1975 by Agriculture Minister A.P. Shinde. In the same year Mr Parkash Singh Badal and Mr Balram Jakhar had started buying fruit plants from the Lyallpur Nursery, besides Mr Teja Singh Badal, Mr Om Parkash Chautala and many more.

Even now Mr Narula (79) gets up at 5 a.m. He looks at the plants responding affirmatively to religious enchanting. Non-vegetarian dishes, liquor, smoking and even playing cards are strictly banned in the farms. Some money is kept for the welfare of religious places and the downtrodden.

Mr Narula regrets the canal water was not supplied to orchards as per demand. Fruit growing had becoming an industry in itself. Subsidy was required on insecticides which were becoming costlier day by day. He suggests to new entrepreneurs that if they were really interested in becoming good farmers, they must ensure their presence at the time of putting fertilisers and spraying the plants. Stress should be on using manure for strengthening the soil. If spray was done in the early morning hours the white fly would definitely be controlled.

The Narulas are growing more than a dozen fruit varieties and had now entered into a contract with eminent sellers in South India. The emphasis was on developing seedless lemon plants.
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Farm operations for December

PULSES:
Give hoeing to gram and lentil to keep weeds under check. Give irrigation to normal sown gram crop around mid December and to lentil after about one month of sowing.

OILSEEDS:
— The harvesting of toria should be completed to avoid losses owing to shattering.

— If the infestation of aphid is located in sarson and raya then spray the crops with 350 ml of Metasystox 25 EC/Rogor 30 EC/Thiodan 35 EC in 100 litres of water per acre.

SUGARCANE:
Save the sugarcane crop from frost by applying irrigation around mid-December. Start crushing/harvesting (for mill purpose) early maturing varieties. Soon after the harvesting burn the trash and irrigate the fields. When the soil attains the optimum moisture condition, loosen it by interculture. Do not cover stubble with cane trash.

VEGETABLES

POTATO:
Towards mid-December, restrict irrigation and later withhold completely so that the haulms wilt and fall over before the aphid build up. In the end of this month as soon as 20 aphid per 100 leaves build up, the haulms should be cut down. The crop should be left underground to allow the tubers to mature.

ONION:
Transplant 4-6 weeks’ old seedlings of onion in the field. The first week of December is the best time of transplanting. Large (10 to 15 cm) sized and healthy seedlings give higher yields. Apply 20 tonnes of well rotten farmyard manure together with 45 kg of urea, 125 kg of superphosphate and 35 kg of muriate of potash before transplanting. For the control of weeds, Spray Stomp 30 EC @ 1.0 litre of Stomp 30 EC @ 750 ml/acre plus one hoeing. The herbicides should be applied within a week after transplanting or after first irrigation.

TOMATO:
Complete transplanting of tomato seedlings in the first fortnight of this month. Provide sarkanda/khahi/rice straw to save the plants from frost. Dwarf tomato varieties can be saved from frost injury with 100 gauge thick white plastic bags to 35x25 cm size. Twentyfive kg bags are sufficient for an acre and these can be used from 2 to 3 years.

RADISH, TURNIP AND CARROT:
The sowing of European varieties of radish, turnip and carrot is to be completed this month. Marketing of roots of Asiatic varieties is to be continued. Stacklings of radish and turnip of full growth and at the peak of edible stage are to be transplanted for seed multiplication. Before transplanting, apply 25 kg of urea and 75 kg superphosphate per acre. Keep lines 60 cm apart and plants at 45 cm.

CAULIFLOWER:
For seed multiplication, select that most ideal heads of the main season varieties and rogue out loose, ricy, leafy and otherwise undesirable heads. In case seed multiplication is to be done on a small scale, transplant the selected heads along with root system intact at the desired place.

Spray the crop with Indofil M 45 @ 400 g/acre in 200 litres of water by the end of December to control the rust. Leaf minor and aphid damage to the field pea can be checked by spraying 400 ml Rogor 30 ec in 80 litres of water per acre.

— Progressive Farming, PAU

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