February 23, 2018 2:25:44 am
In a snub for Punjab, Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog, on Thursday told the state not to bother about the national food security, but secure the income of its farmers, besides reducing pressure on its soil, power and underground water. Dr Kumar was addressing a meeting of Punjab’s officials led by Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal in Chandigarh.
During the meeting, officials of various departments gave presentations, seeking Centre’s help to tide over agriculture crisis and provide MSP of crops as per Swaminathan Committee report. The presentation emphasised the point that Punjab was filling granaries of the country and had in turn over-exploited its aquifers, besides turning the soil poisonous after pesticide overload.
The vice-chairman, sources said, told the meeting the state did not need to be concerned about country’s granaries and asked it to get out of wheat-paddy monoculture, sell produce in the open market instead of waiting for the Centre to procure the produce.
In Punjab, 75 per cent population depends on agriculture, producing wheat and paddy primarily, and the state has not been able to encourage its farmers to diversify from the monoculture. The Congress-ruled Punjab was one of the last states to be visited by the Niti Aayog deputy.
Later, briefing the media, Dr Kumar said he was informed about several issues. “We are going to take those up with various ministries at the Centre.” Badal told the media they had raised the issue of discrimination against Punjab despite it being the largest contributor of foodgrains. He said the state was not reimbursed for its actual expenditure as every year it had to bear an extra cost of Rs 1,800 crore for procurement operations. “We want them to compensate us. We have told them that if they do not want state agencies to procure, then the operations should be handed over to Food Corporation of India. We will assist them,” Badal said.
CM seeks ‘special status’ for Punjab
Meanwhile, CM Amarinder Singh, in his meeting with Dr Kumar, reiterated his demand for the “special category” status for Punjab to facilitate restoration of the 90:10 sharing pattern for centrally-sponsored schemes from the current 50:50 and enable the state to expedite its development programmes.
The demand was also in the wish list of the State for the national budget. He also reiterated the demand for central assistance in key areas of the state’s development, including special package for border areas and river protection along the border, in the interest of national security.
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