If crop diversification was not undertaken at the earliest and the area under paddy plantation not reduced, Punjab would face a water emergency-like situation in the times to come, a cabinet minister said. “If water is not used judiciously and saved optimally, then water emergency is written on the wall in the times to come,” Power and Irrigation minister Rana Gurjeet Singh said while talking to reporters at the residence of Harjit Singh Parmar here last night.
Maintaining that the real panacea of ills afflicting Punjab peasantry lay in crop diversification, the minister advocated quick shift from present wheat-paddy cycle to horticulture, fruits, vegetables and other crops that required less water. “If precious resource of water is not saved, then not only Punjab but other parts of the country will be embroiled in water-wars,” he warned.
He said that as many as 104 blocks of Punjab were declared ‘black’ by the human resource development ministry. “This means that water of these blocks is polluted and not drinkable,” he elaborated.
Accusing the SAD-BJP government of playing with the sentiments of people, he alleged that Badal government had discontinued the crop diversification started by the Amarinder Singh government in 2002-07 by promoting citrus plantation. “Though former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal knew the grave situation of depleting underground water table, Akalis arbitrarily gave 65,000 tubewell connections to their favourites, ignoring claims of the needy farmers,” he alleged.
“Due to this biased approach, many farmers managed to get two connections while others were left without even one,” he said. The minister said the government was giving Rs 65,000 to Rs 70,000 crore subsidy for free supply to farmers.
Power supply was being given regularly for 8 hours to villages during ongoing paddy transplantation. If required and needed, we may also consider fresh tubewell connections in future, he said. Claiming that upgradation of power lines was a continuous process, the minister said that Rs 3,100 crore were earmarked in the budget for strengthening and upgrading power lines during current fiscal.
He attributed periodic short power cuts to record increase in temperature in summer, leading to cracks in insulators. “Otherwise, there is no shortage of power and no cuts whatsoever,” he asserted.
On drugs, Rana Gurjeet said the Amarinder Singh-led government was committed to snapping nexus between the police, politicians and drug mafia. “Big time drug operators have been arrested and none, howsoever big, will be spared,” he said. Earlier, addressing workers, Rana Gurjeet counted various achievements of the state government in the last 105 days.
Congress stalwarts Harjit Singh Parmar and Joginder Singh Mann honoured Gurjeet Singh with a sword and shawl on his first visit here after becoming a minister.