M A I N   N E W S

Take out small farmers from farm sector, says panel
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 1
Urging the Punjab Government to take hard decisions and bold initiatives, the Punjab State Farmers Commission has recommended the taking out of small farmers, for whom agriculture has become an unviable proposition, from the traditional farm sector. Such farmers should be accommodated in new industrial units, the setting up of which should be promoted by the government in the rural areas.

The commission, headed by Dr G.S.Kalkat, has urged the government to make it mandatory for rural industrial units to recruit persons from areas surrounding such units. Such farmers should also be assisted in the growing of pesticide-free vegetables and the starting of commercial dairy projects.

Mr K.S.Pannu, member-secretary of the commission, said copies of the recommendations had been submitted to the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, and others concerned. He said that village cooperatives should be assisted in the buying of tractors and costly agricultural implements and machinery for common use on a hire basis in villages.

The government should provide marketing, packaging and freight subsidies to encourage the export of agricultural produce. An agricultural adjustment fund should be created to help state farmers grow high-value crops requiring less water. The government should make efforts to lower the debt burden of farmers. The maximum investment should be made in the agro-processing sector such as dairy and pulp mills. The contract farming system, which has a wide scope for perishable commodities, should be institutionalised. Heavy investment should be made in the development of the cold-chain infrastructure.

Punjab should have a long-term policy for the conservation of water. The harvesting of rain water should be part of the policy. Likewise, the use of subsoil water should be regulated. There is need to balance the use of water.

There should be focus on research to generate short-duration, high-yielding varieties of rice, pulses and oilseeds. The commission favours removing one million hectares from under the paddy crop, which uses six times more water than in the case of maize, 20 times more than groundnut and about 10 times more than other kharif crops.

The commission, having Prof Karam Singh and Prof P.S. Rangi as members, has urged the government to take concrete steps to transform the crisis in agriculture into growth in this sector .


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