Be it due to shrinking landholdings or shortcomings in the implementation of government schemes, farming in Punjab is becoming a loss-making venture. Despite the schemes to increase their income, small and marginal farmers are in a tight spot as their debt has increased manifold.
Farmers express their willingness to shift to crops other than paddy and wheat, but they allege that their attempts have failed due to lack of proper market for such crops. Moreover, the presence of middlemen is killing the aspirations of farmers to improve their living standards with hard work.
“I tried to shift to non-paddy crops for two years, but suffered huge losses. I had sown vegetables in my field . But every day, I was compelled to sell my crop to a middleman who sold it at more than double the rate as there is no arrangement made by the government to purchase our crops directly. For example, if a farmer sells potato, it goes for Rs 2-3 per kg to a middleman, but the same is being sold at the rate of Rs 10-15 in cities by him,” says Kulwinder Singh of Chhajli village in Sangrur district.
The Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA) works with agriculture-related institutions for sustainable agriculture development. There are also schemes for in situ crop residue management machinery and to motivate farmers to cultivate pulses, besides the sale of seeds on subsidy to farmers.
But farmers allege that officers frame these schemes for the betterment of farming without consulting them, thus defeating the purpose of these schemes. They claim that a majority of the officers are yet to take required steps to help farmers despite repeated directions from the top brass.
“The Punjab and Central governments must order a high-level inquiry to find the reasons for the spreading of infestation in fields where farmers did not burn stubble. I have sown wheat with machines on five acres, but all are under army worm and pink stem borer infestation. Interestingly, in a burnt field, wheat is growing without any issue. It all shows mismanagement under the in situ scheme,” says Bahadur Singh from Longowal.
Another farmer, Surjit Singh of Mojowal village, alleges that he has not received subsidy on seeds for the past three years despite fulfilling all mandatory formalities and submitting a form at the Sunam office of the Agriculture Department.
“The government has been hailing the payment of subsidy as a big project, but it must order an inquiry to check whether the subsidy is reaching us or not. Like me, there are thousands of other farmers who are waiting for the seed subsidy,” he claims.
In some villages, the failure of farmers who tried to generate income from non-crop sources has also been a stumbling block.
“Government support is inadequate on the ground. In my village, a farmer constructed a big dairy of cows, but due to lack of required facilities, his venture failed and he is now under debt. The government should understand that only the opening of new avenues in not enough; farmers need support to run them,” says Harbhajan Singh, a farmer from Phaleda village.
Inclement weather, stray cattle menace and unscientific farming techniques are also creating problems for farmers.
BKU Ugrahan chief Joginder Singh Ugrahan says neither the Punjab government nor its officers are aware of the requirements of farmers. He suggests that the state government should first order a time-bound study involving farmers to ascertain the genuine needs of farming.
KS Pannu, Secretary, Agriculture, says things are improving as farmers have started adopting latest techniques to improve crop productivity and are availing government schemes.
“Our officers have been taking all required steps and the number of farmers at government fairs has been increasing. From our side, there is no delay in the implementation of schemes,” says Pannu.
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