Thursday, January 9, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Centre’s nod to Johl’s plan
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, January 8
With the endorsement of the Johl Committee scheme on crop diversification by a high-level team of top officers of the Union Government in Delhi today, Punjab has crossed the first major hurdle on this front. The Union Government team which has accepted the “ merits of the scheme” will discuss the issue with the Union Finance Ministry for providing funds to implement it in the state.

Led by Dr S.S. Johl, a high-level team of Punjab officers today held a lengthy meeting with officers of the Union Food and Agricultural Ministries on the issue. Others who represented the state at the meeting were Mr Bhagat Singh, Financial Commissioner (Revenue); Mr P.K. Verma, Financial Commissioner (Development); Mr K.R. Lakhanpal, Principal Secretary (Finance); Mr Himmat Singh, Managing Director, Punjab Agro Industries Corporation; and Dr G. Vajralingam, Director, Food Supplies.

Dr Johl gave a detailed explanation about the salient features of the scheme. Dr Johl said the Union Government team was fully satisfied “ with the merits of the scheme” and was convinced that it was not only in the interest of the Union Government but also of the country. The central officers were fully inclined to implement it, he added.

Since funds to the Union Food Ministry are to be provided by the Finance Ministry, the central officers said that they would start discussions in this connection with their counterparts in the Finance Ministry soon. “No objection to any part of the scheme was raised by the Union Government officials. They sought elaboration of certain features mentioned in the scheme”, said Dr Johl.

Dr Johl said: “I am hopeful that this scheme would be cleared by the Finance Ministry in toto and Punjab would get the required amount to start the diversification process from the next kharif crop in June”.

Dr Johl has prepared the scheme for replacing at least 10 lakh hectares of land from the wheat-paddy cycle with other crops. Punjab produces about 8.04 million tonnes of foodgrains on 10 lakh hectares and it costs about Rs 6,976 crore to the Union Government on procurement for the central pool at the minimum support price. However, after including the cost of transportation, storage and stock maintenance etc, the cost goes up to Rs 9,000 crore to hold these foodgrains for one year.

Even if these grains get disposed of at a price meant for the below poverty line section of society or exported, the Union Government loses about Rs 5000 crore in one year. So, it will be in the interest of the Union Government if 8.04 million tonnes foodgrains are not produced.


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