Ruchika M Khanna
Chandigarh, March 13
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government began its journey with strong signals towards breaking the wheat-rice cycle and giving alternative to farmers. However, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann’s plan to offer MSP on ‘moong’ did motivate farmers to go in for its cultivation, but the government was found wanting in procuring the crop that arrived in the mandis. Only 10 per cent of the crop was procured and most of the farmers had to go in for distress sale at prices far below the MSP.
There may have been some roadblocks but our plan to take the state agriculture on a new growth trajectory is firmly in place and will start giving concrete results. Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, Agri Minister
Highs & lows in Agriculture
- Stubble burning cases reduced
- Smooth procurement of wheat and paddy last year and hassle-free purchase of sugarcane
- Baby steps taken for crop diversification
- A new comprehensive agriculture policy in works
- Not many takers for the DSR and government fell short of its target on area under the DSR
- Growing of moong in cotton belt led to whitefly and pink bollworm attack, destroying cotton on large tracts and reducing its production
- Potato glut this year has hit growers hard in the wake of no assured buying of crop, as was promised by the party
- Effective policy on helping marginal farmers to stop suicide by debt-ridden farmers not brought out
The government started with steps to check the depleting water table, trying to strengthen the in-situ stubble management practices and to promote horticulture crops and cotton cultivation to bring the much-needed diversification in Punjab’s agriculture.
Among the very first few decisions, taken by the government after assuming office in March 2022, were to give incentives to those employing the direct seeding of rice (DSR) for checking the depletion of groundwater and promoting the moong cultivation to ensure the late sowing of paddy. It is another thing that the decision on moong backfired when it was cultivated in cotton-growing areas and whitefly that feeds on moong remained in the soil when cotton was sown, destroying the cotton crop. Even the targets set for the DSR could not be met last year because of power shortage and poor availability of canal water. According to the government’s own admission, only 30,312 farmers came forward for adopting the DSR.
Realising that the rollout of these were not “much thought over”, the government has now formed a group of experts to help it frame an agriculture policy to be implemented this year. Experts have been roped in to help the government frame the policy and Mann accompanied by Agriculture and Horticulture Ministers Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal and Chetan Singh Jouramajra have been interacting directly with farmers (a Kisan milni was organised in Ludhiana last month) to know how to usher in a new era of “Green Revolution”.
The Budget has substantially increased the outlay for agriculture, reserving Rs 1,000 crore only for crop diversification. But behind the figure is the truth that a majority of the Rs 13,888 crore reserved for agriculture - a whopping Rs 9,331 crore will go towards the payment of power subsidy given to agriculture pumpset consumers.
The crop insurance scheme, creation of a revolving market intervention fund for basmati, 33 per cent subsidy on cotton seeds and track and trace mechanism to ensure that only good quality seeds are used, hiring agri extension workers in each village, setting up of five new horticulture estates in Ludhiana, Gurdasapur, Patiala, Bathinda and Faridkot and creating a risk mitigation fund for horticulture crops - Bhav Antar Bhugtan Yojana have also been announced.
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