September 28, 2021 12:40:01 am
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has demanded that officials of the state agriculture department be held responsible for the lapses which led to the spread of Pink Bollworm disease in the state crippling the cotton crop in several thousand acres.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Kultar Singh Sandhwan, MLA from Kotkapura and chairman of the Kisan Wing of AAP, said that because of distribution of spurious BT cotton seeds and pesticides, the Bollworm disease had spread among the cotton crops. “This is a disaster for the farmers, the cotton crop pickers and those who purchased the crops. There is no doubt that this has happened because there was no check on the quality of seeds and pesticides, which had to be monitored by the Punjab Agriculture Department. The officials who are responsible for bringing this misfortune upon farmers must be made to pay,” said Sandhwan.
Training his gun on Chief Minister, Charanjit Singh Channi, for his blink and miss visit to the cotton fields in Bathinda, Sandhwan said the agriculture department officials are pulling wool over the CMs eyes by talking about distribution of pesticides. “The CM kept talking about distributing pesticides to farmers, mainly because the agriculture officials had failed to brief him adequately about the disease. The fact is that the worm remains unaffected by pesticides because it enters the bolls and damages the cotton,” he said.
The AAP leader demanded that not only should the cotton farmers be paid compensation for the damage that they have suffered to their crops, but the cotton pickers, who come from the weakest sections of the society, should also get cash for the adverse effect on their livelihoods.
Experts of the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) said that they had already warned about the possibility of a Pink Bollworm spread and that seminars had been held on the topic. An expert in entomology, who did not want to be named, said that the farmers had been warned to be on the lookout for the Pink Bollworm.
Answering a question on the role of BT cotton in the disease he said that the Pink Bollworm had been first observed in South India in BT cotton hybrids and it affected crops in Haryana in 2018, and in 2019 and 2020 it attacked crops in some areas of Bathinda.
He added that BT cotton was particularly susceptible to Pink Bollworm, while Fall Armyworm affects maize, paddy and sugarcane crops.
As per a study ‘Integrated Pest Management of Cotton Crops’ carried out by PAUs regional centre in Faridkot, Pink Bollworm is the most destructive pest of cotton. “The damage is caused in various ways. There is excessive shedding of the attacked fruiting bodies. The attacked young bolls fall prematurely and the older ones which do mature do not contain good lint. The damaged seed-cotton gives a lower ginning percentage, lower oil extraction and inferior spinning quality,” says the study done by Ramesh Arora, Vikas Jindal, Pankaj Rathore, Raman Kumar, Vikram Singh and Lajpat.
Agriculture department officials say that the measures to tackle the crises vary from deep ploughing of fields to removal of weeds acting as alternate hosts for the pests. Burning the crop to destroy the pest is also an alternative but that would cause smog and lead to yet another problem.
Hang us, we have done our best: Agriculture Director
Prodded for his comments on the allegations of lapses made against agriculture department officials by the AAP for failing to deal with the Pink Bollworm attack, the Agriculture Director, Dr Sukhdev Singh Sidhu said, “Phaahe laa dao saanu” (hang us).”
He went on to say that it was the Opposition’s job to make such allegations and that all efforts had been made by his department in dealing with the crisis. “It is everywhere in the news today. You can pick up any newspaper and read about the measures taken,” he said.
When asked to reiterate what steps had been taken, he said that seminars had been conducted, workshops had been held and advertisements had been released for the farmers’ knowledge about the Pink Bollworm threat. When asked why the problem reached present levels despite all these measures, Sidhu said that this was due to the overcast conditions that were prevalent for many days and emphasised that the problem only existed in some areas of Bathinda and Mansa.
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