No more utility vehicles,tractors turn status symbol,accelerate farm crisis

That Punjab is an agrarian state is a well established fact. But not many know that Punjab is also the most mechanised agrarian state.

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar | Updated: April 14, 2014 12:08 pm

That Punjab is an agrarian state is a well established fact. But not many know that Punjab is also the most mechanised agrarian state.

For a state that claims to be the nation’s food bowl,Punjab is home to just 1.6 per cent of the total agricultural land of country. However,its farmers own 18 per cent of all the tractors sold in India. The state has often been castigated for its over dependence on farm equipment —- a fact that has only led to its farmers getting burdened under debt —— but that has never stopped its farmers from buying the latest,the biggest and the most powerful tractors.

“It is a status symbol. The more powerful your tractor is,the more powerful your image among the villagers,” says a Jalandhar farmer,who owns two of these machines for his 12 acre farmland.

Even small and marginal farmers —- as per a farm report the average farm size in Punjab has reduced to 4 acres over the years —- refuse to give up on this farm equipment despite the fact that they can hire one for their needs on affordable rates.

As per the records,Punjab is home to 4,43,227 tractors while,based on farm holdings,it needs just about one lakh of these machines.

State joint director,farm machinery,Dr DR Kataria says the government has been trying to discourage the farmers from spending on new tractors but to no avail.

“We stopped the subsidy on tractor purchase four to five years ago. We are also trying to discourage individual farmers from buying tractors,yet every year 30,000 more tractors are added to Punjab’s inventory,” says Kataria. He says that most of the tractors remain grossly underutilised.

“The farmers here do not mind putting their life savings or taking huge bank loans to satisfy their ego. Punjab also sells highest number of used tractors. It is not that the farmers are giving up on these machines. They sell the old machines to buy bigger and latest tractors with more horsepower,” said a farm expert.

Kataria adds: “A tractor is economically viable only if it runs (in the farms) at least 1,000 hours in a year. But in majority of cases,it is used for only 300 to 400 hours a year.”

Their love for tractors has blocked huge amount of the money and farmers are burdened by bank loans,said Paramjit Singh Sooch,a farmer and vice president of Farm’s Produce Promotion Society (FAPRO). “The conditions to provide loans particularly for buying tractors must be made more stringent at least in Punjab,” Sooch added.

As per the reports,out of Rs 35,000 crore farm sector debt of Punjab more than Rs 10,000 crore is only because of over spending on farm machinery —- most of which,as per experts is not even required.

There are cooperative societies for almost every village,which purchases farm machinery and provides it on custom hiring basis to the farmers on affordable rates,said Kataria. To hammer home his point he doles out some more figures: Punjab has around 13.82 lakh tube wells against 12 lakh farmers.

It also owns more than 6.5 lakh threshers.

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