Punjab farmers need training, credit support

THE present policy of diverting about one million hectares of rice and wheat (rice, in particular) to other crops cannot be criticised on the basis of calculated economic returns and a few other unsustainable reasons. One must see the impact of continued flooded-rice production system (about 2.5 million hectares in Punjab) with inefficient management of irrigation water and other inputs (fertilizers, pesticides, energy) on the depletion of natural resources (bio-diversity, soil, water, environment) and factors that control the long-term sustainability of farm productivity and profitability.

Crop responses (lows or highs in productivity and profitability) vary with the in-region and in-farm variability and its quality, pest (insects, diseases, weeds) problems, etc. We need to follow an area-specific, integrated and precision crop diversification approach. It requires identification of crop-specific areas where high productivity and profitability can be sustained.

In case of rice, we should not stick to cultivation at sites with permeable sandy and loamy sand soils, receding water table and saline irrigation water. Rice should not be replaced by crops like maize and pulses, fruits and vegetables in areas having salt-affected soils and traditional basmati-rice areas.

Given proper training, market and credit support and other incentives, Punjab’s capital-starved farmers do have the potential to rapidly shift from one cropping system to another that is economically sustainable.

Dr M.S. BAJWA, Former Director (Research), PAU, Ludhiana


Why blame Brahmins?

Amulya Ganguli’s piece “Quotas in private sector”, interesting though, contains wrong conclusions. What evidence he has to infer that the “lower castes in India had been discouraged by the Brahminical order for centuries from educating themselves”?

For about eight centuries, India was under foreign rule in which the Brahmins had no say. The historically most significant period was the long reign of Aurangzeb during which the Hindus and Brahmins were persecuted. Education then could hardly fetch a job. Reciting Vedas or listening to Vedas does not improve a person’s vocational skills. Thus, the writer’s inference is without historical basis.

Earlier, during the Gupta Age, the Golden Age of Indian history, “Professions were not strictly determined by caste… The Army was no longer confined to the kshatriyas; it was open to the Vaisyas and Sudras as well…They (the lower castes) became traders, artisans and agriculturists and the law books of the time allow it” (vide Nilakanta Sastri K.A. and Srinivasachari G., Advanced History of India).

ASHWANI KUMAR, Nurpur Bedi (Ropar)

Vaccine for dog bite

I appeal to the Centre and the Punjab government to arrange the supply of Cell Culture Vaccine (CCV) either free of cost or at subsidised rates to the victims of dog bites. Though over three million cases of dog bite occur annually in India, they are deprived of free anti-rabies vaccine in hospitals. About 30,000 people die due to rabies annually.

Prior to June 2005, semple vaccine prepared from a sheep brain was available in government hospitals at highly subsidised rates. But the efficacy of this vaccine was 60-70 per cent and it required a course of 14 injections. To prepare this vaccine, sheep had to be sacrificed. Following a public interest litigation, this vaccine was withdrawn.

Now dog bite victims are wholly dependent on the CCV. Its full course costs over Rs 1,000 which is prohibitive. The government should make it available either free of cost or at subsidised rates in all government hospitals.

Dr AJAY BAGGA, Hoshiarpur


Help cotton growers

This has reference to M.S. Swaminathan’s article “Time to end disconnect between cotton growers and industry”. The urgent steps required to save the cotton growers are five-fold.

One, timely arrangement of quality certified seeds, chemical fertilisers and genuine pesticides at reasonable rates. Two, hassle-free and timely availability of sufficient bank credit at maximum 4 per cent interest. Three, assured marketing facilities to sell  the produce at reasonable rates.

Four, countrywide campaign to promote farmers’ federations and Self-Help Groups for long run sustainability. And finally, cotton cultivation deserves the status of an industry so that cotton growers get all concessions which are available to textile industry.

PURAN SINGH, Project Economist (Haryana), Chandigarh

Schools sans teachers

We often read about schools without teachers in Punjab. But facts are bitter for the teachers. In rural areas, out of 150 working days in a year, 80 per cent teachers are absentees. Many work through proxies who are paid handsome money. What is the solution? Let the government lease out all government premises to the private institutions with proven track record. No lease rent is taken but the government imposes the condition of 50 per cent free seats to the students from poor families.

The funds being spent on education may be used to pay the teachers’ salaries in such schools. For example, if the private owner pays Rs 5,000, let the government pay an equal amount from its budget. The idea is to make teachers work to earn.


Science teachers

An appeal has been made to the Chairman, State Staff Selection Board, Punjab, to consider the eligibility of Home Science students for posts of science teachers advertised by the Board. Those who have done M.Sc in Food and Nutrition should also be made eligible for these posts.




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