Of alternative cropping systems

Apropos of Dr H.S. Shergill’s article “Punjab should stick to wheat paddy” (Feb 18), he seems to be a big protagonist of the wheat-paddy cycle and is in no way convinced about the depleting water table. Punjab farmers have acquired a high degree of expertise in paddy cultivation as it clearly does not belong to the indigenous flora of Punjab.

This is the reason for the mess in ecological balance, for which the farmers are paying by incurring expenditure on the high cost submersible pumps. Surely, it is the Centre which instigated farmers to produce paddy for the country ignoring the long-term social costs.

It would be appropriate to implement the crop adjustment programme but not in toto. We should not disturb the area under wheat but the acreage under paddy must be shifted to alternative crops like oilseeds and pulses for which India is still net importer. If remunerative and effective MSP for the alternative crops is not possible, direct payment to farmers as in developed countries is possible as a subsidy-cum- incentive to the farmers should be sought for those taking up the cultivation of alternative crops.

As for the sustainability in paddy output, the states which are ecologically well suited for this like West Bengal and Tamil Nadu should also discharge their duty to the Centre.

HARPREET SINGH, Ph. D Scholar, Dept of Economics, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana




Apropos of Dr H.S. Shergill’s article (Feb 18) and Dr K.S. Aulakh’s piece “Crop diversification is a necessity” (Feb 25), the former put a question mark on the diversification issue by drawing 10 reasons in favour of wheat paddy cropping system. However, at the end, he shows his inclination towards a gradual reduction in the areas under these crops.

He has also overlooked the ecological implications like underground water, soil health and injudicious use of chemicals in the prevailing system. The profitability of alternative cropping systems, as suggested by Dr Shergill, could be very low only if we consider farm income solely from field crops and ignore other agricultural enterprises like horticulture, processing, dairy, poultry and bee-keeping etc., which contribute substantially to the farm income.

Dr Aulakh has presented the actual scenario. One has to consider how tough and challenging it is for the agricultural scientists and extension workers to make farmers understand and adopt diversification.

SUKHVINDER PAL SINGH BAINS, Ph.D Scholar, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi


Dr Shergill has examined the most important need of the hour regarding Punjab agriculture. However, Punjab’s poor farmers cannot take the risk on their own to change the wheat-paddy crop cycle to other crops at present.

On behalf of farmers, I appeal to the Punjab government not to mediate on contract farming. Let the farmers and the companies talk to each other directly. This will create a healthy competition and contribute to the growth of contract farming culture. The government should only keep a watch in the farmers’ interest.

In the present scenario, those companies involved in contract farming are making money while the condition of the farmers is becoming worst as there is no MSP system for the proposed alternative crops.

KARANBIR SHAH, Qadian (Gurdaspur)


Dr Shergill’s advocacy cannot be accepted at this critical juncture. No doubt, wheat and paddy are remunerative crops for farmers subject to the crutches of MSP. Gone are the days when Punjab and Haryana had monopoly over wheat and paddy. Now other states are also on the forefront. The MSP system for oilseeds and other crops can also be more profitable and helpful for crop diversification.

Alternative crops like mustard, gram, cereals, sugarcane require less input cost, fertiliser, labour, irrigation facilities and so on in comparison to wheat and paddy but require an assured marketing system. Had there been no MSP for wheat and paddy, no farmer would have dared to take the risk. Alternative crops never face such a situation even without the MSP.



Great art transcends time

Apropos of the editorial “Death of a playwright” (Feb 14), it is true that Arthur Miller holds mirror up to the American society in the 40s of the last century. But great art transcends the boundaries of time and places. His masterpiece “Death of a salesman” is relevant today, particularly in the developing countries where the struggle of the common man in society to survive and to live a decent life is as difficult as it was in the contemporary life in America when the play was written.

The hero of the play Willy Loman is a salesman of a company. The company which has employed him for 34 years takes him off salary and keeps him on commission only. The financial distress of the family, which has purchased on instalments household appliances, becomes very acute. His son Biff tries many jobs but is unsuccessful to make enough money. His other son Happy too is a moderate businessman and can’t help the family to come out of acute financial crisis. Finally, Willy Loman, whose mind is failing, commits suicide to give the family insurance money.

V.P. MEHTA, Chandigarh

Inquiry commissions

Justice Nanavati has submitted his report on the anti-Sikh riots in 1984. According to reports, this report will be tabled in the Budget session of Parliament. Why shouldn’t this report be made public and its recommendations implemented?

I suggest three changes in the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. First, there should be a specific timeframe for the conduct of an inquiry, fixed in consultation with the judge concerned. Secondly, it must be mandatory to make the report public. And finally, recommendations made in the report should be made binding on the government. The three amendments will restore people’s faith in the inquiry commissions and will help truth and justice prevail.


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