November 7, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Chandigarh, November 6
Dr Johl, as Chairperson of the Chief Minister’s Advisory Committee, had prepared a radical agriculture policy for Punjab with emphasis on practical solutions, making diversification possible and viable. The concept enunciated by him was commended by the Planning Commission of India.
It may be recalled that Capt Amarinder Singh had taken Dr Johl with him for a discussion in the Planning Commission, where the concept was presented to Mr Som Pal, Member, State Plans, whose reaction to the proposals was positive and he had insisted that a discussion paper be sent urgently.
On return, Dr Johl worked day and night, despite the fact that the state government had not provided him either with office accommodation or staff. (He is still without any official support structure, though he has the status of a Cabinet minister). Nevertheless, in July he submitted an “interim” report on agriculture policy to the Chief Minister, who promptly forwarded it to the Chief Secretary, Mr Y.S. Ratra. He immediately sent it to the Financial Commissioner (Development), Mr P.K. Verma. The report was to be despatched to Mr Som Pal and the Union Ministers for Finance, Agriculture and Food and even the Prime Minister. However, the “report” continued to gather dust in the office of Mr Verma for nearly two-and-a-half months.
When Dr Johl submitted the final report on agriculture policy to the Chief Minister on the night of October 29, he also submitted his resignation in protest against the “bureaucratic lethargy and its indifference”. On hearing about such callousness of the bureaucrats in handling even such matters, Capt Amarinder Singh is reported to have made inquiries and pulled up the bureaucrats. He also refused to accept the resignation letter of Dr Johl.
In his interim report Dr Johl had suggested a way out of the wheat-paddy rotation and had shown a roadmap of “crop adjustment programme” under which farmers, central and state governments were to benefit. The practical solutions aimed at lowering the huge stockpile of 65 million tonnes of foodgrains over a period of time, involving the private sector in exports and procurement of foodgrains at the government doctored minimum support price, enabling farmers to sow pulses and oilseeds by getting paid for not sowing wheat and paddy etc.
What Dr Johl wanted was Rs 1,280 crore for Punjab to implement the recommendations on diversification that would still have left the Centre with an annual saving of Rs 3,720 crore by way of costs it incurred in post-harvest handling of foodgrains without compromising on food security.
Meanwhile, it is pertinent to mention here that the State Planning Board, which was constituted in April, had not held any meeting till date. In fact, inquiries have revealed that the State Planning Board — in different forms under various governments — has not had any meeting in the past 16 years or so. Punjab is a typical state, where plans are prepared and Budgets presented without ever bothering the Planning Board.
It is learnt now that Capt Amarinder Singh has been made aware of the bureaucratic stranglehold over “men and matters” that an agenda is being cobbled up for a possible meeting of the board some time in December.
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